Fund Favorites

05/13/2005 12:00 am EST

Focus:

Here, we cover a five-pack of funds. Neil George and Mark Skousen look to closed-end country funds, Janet Brown uncovers a "surprise" at the top of her rankings, Price Headley opts for a drug-related ETF, and Steve Sjuggerud suggests a small-cap "bear" fund.

George, Neil"Around the world, business and government leaders are working their buns off to compete better," notes Neil George, editor of Personal Finance. "One way we play these opportunities is through our collection of closed-end country funds, which allows us to put our money in improving economies driven by the leading local companies. We use these funds as proxies into many of these countries because their individual stocks are either thinly traded or the markets aren't easily accessible. We love Brazil Fund (BZF NYSE), Korea Fund (KF NYSE), and Central European and Russia Fund (CEE NYSE), as well as the newcomer to the Growth Portfolio, First Israel Fund (ISL NYSE). By buying into each of these, we get the best that these local markets offer."

Skousen, Mark

"A very important color photo was recently published on the front page of The New York Times ," notes Mark Skousen, editor of Forecasts & Strategies . "It shows Lien Chan, head of Taiwan's Nationalist Party, and Hu Jintao, president of China, shaking hands and formally ending 60 years of civil war. This is very positive news for our Asian stocks, and not surprisingly, Morgan Stanley Asia-Pacific Fund (APF NYSE) rose on the news. I was talking to a top trader at Morgan Stanley, who indicated to me that APF is one of its best managed funds and holds a substantial position in Samsung Electronics. Yet you can currently buy the Asia-Pacific at a 14% discount to its net asset value."

Brown, Janet"Fairholme Fund  (FAIRX) is a surprise; it is the first domestic fund to appear at the very top of the ranks in many months," says Janet Brown, editor of NoLoad Fund*X . "It further distinguishes itself from the rest of its peers with positive returns for each of the four performance periods we track. The managers seek undervalued companies and are willing to make large bets on individual companies and industries. The managers invest in a maximum of 25 stocks because they want to understand the companies they buy and want their picks to count. The top ten positions hold around 70% of the fund's assets and include Berkshire Hathaway with nearly 20% of fund assets and MCI, at 15% of assets. Another sizable position, cash, may also be helping Fairholme weather the latest market volatility."

Headley, Price"After getting crushed over the course of last year, everything about the pharmaceutical industry seemed ugly," notes Price Headley in BigTrends.com . "But over the last two months, we've seen more upside than downside, with the sector up a fraction since the end of 2004. That sheer relative strength is compelling, considering that the S&P is down 2.5% and the NASDAQ is down 8.5% over the same timeframe. Indeed, the AMEX Pharmaceutical Index has just crossed above the 200-day average, a sign that the 'bigger trend' is on the buying side of these deeply undervalued stocks. Clearly somebody is buying these stocks, and the recent technical strength is likely to trigger a lot more buying. We recommend Pharmaceutical HOLDRs Trust (PPH ASE), an exchange-traded fund. Our target is 89.25 with a closing stop at or under 72. This is a pure 'undervalued' strategy."

Sjuggerud, Steve"We have a fantastic opportunity for large profits in small caps right now," notes Steve Sjuggerud, editor of True Wealth. "But it is not in the way that you might think. Over the last five years, small value stocks have significantly outperformed large-cap growth stocks. This trend is just now breaking down. S mall-cap stocks are as expensive today as they were at the peak of the bubble in 2000. So how can we actually profit from a fall in small stocks? I've got the perfect way; it's a mutual fund called the Pro-Funds UltraShort Small-Cap ProFund (UCPIX). The fund seeks to provide twice the inverse of the return of the Russell 2000 Index. Of course we're taking some risk here. But the small risk we're taking pales in comparison to the big risks everyone else is taking in the other direction. To me, the big risk is in doing what everyone else is doing."

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