Off the Beaten Fund Path

08/13/2004 12:00 am EST

Focus:

Here are some funds "with a twist." Doug Fabian looks at bear funds, while Vivian Lewis looks at a play for foreign exposure. Janet Brown and Martin Weiss each look at oil and natural resource plays. And Neil George looks at emerging markets in Brazil and Korea.

Fabian, Doug"I think this current downtrend is too strong to just be watching from the sidelines," says Doug Fabian, editor of Successful Investing . "That is why I am recommending that my subscribers (who have been in a 100% cash position) now take a 25% portfolio allocation to the Rydex Ursa Fund (RYURX). This is a bear fund that seeks investment results which are inversely correlated to the S&P 500 index. Why go short now that the market has already fallen hard? Well, because the recent drubbing in the S&P 500 pushed the index to a new year-to-date low. When this happened in the bull market of Aug. ¹98, the S&P 500 fell sharply over subsequent weeks, and that is the kind of decline we are looking to capitalize on with this short position. For those of you who are more aggressive, I recommend putting that 25% allocation into the Rydex Tempest 500  (RYTPX ), a leveraged bear fund that seeks investment results inversely correlated to two times the S&P 500. Leveraged funds can move very fast, so only those investors with the strongest risk tolerance should consider this fund."

Lewis, Vivian "Is there a single stock for people who do not have any foreign exposure?" Says Vivian Lewis, editor of Global Investing, "The answer is Lazard Global Total Return & Income Fund (LGI NYSE). It can invest in stocks or bonds from around the world, depending on its managers’ views. The relatively new share trades at a 6% discount from net asset value. Lazard is a conflicted place with huge egos at work, pitting the French aristocratic chairman of the board, Michel David-Weil, against playwright Bruce Wassertein. But behind the power plays is a strong tradition. The French investment bank originated in commodity trading by two brothers named Lazard in the early 1800s, with operations reaching New Orleans. The David-Weil clan are descendents. These are not fly-by-night operators. The publicly traded closed-end fund is a token of the performance Lazard provides to 'posher people' trusting it with their loot. You will benefit from the best thinking from the House of Lazard, which has branches in New York, London, and Paris. The fact that they fight so much should enhance their chances of getting it right."

Brown, Janet"Energy makes the world go round," says Janet Brown, editor of NoLoad Fund*X. "Icon Energy (ICENX) has moved to the top of our ranking, with year-to-date returns of 20.7%. The energy sector in general, has benefited from rising oil prices, favorable supply/demand dynamics, and an improving global economy. Icon Energy actively rotates among five industries within the energy sector including integrated oil, energy services, exploration and production, refining and marketing, and drilling. Icon's proprietary quantitative model compares historical earnings against five-year future growth rates and as a result, the fund often invests in smaller cap and riskier stocks than represented the energy component of the S&P 500 index. With just 51 holdings in its portfolio, ICENX is a concentrated sector fund and investors should limit their exposure accordingly."

Weiss, Martin"Unlike the oil shortage in the 1970's, the reasons for the rise in prices today are not political," says Martin Weiss, editor of the Safe Money Report . "They are driven by a worldwide shortage and an insatiable, growing demand. We are bumping along that precarious point at which demand chronically exceeds supply. The real surprise isn't that oil is trading at an all-time high of over $44 a barrel—it's that oil prices aren't already a lot higher. There are bound to be setbacks in-between. But this is another, powerful trend that is just in its infancy. Position yourself to profit from rising oil and energy prices. Diversify your portfolio with natural resources. One of our top picks is US Global Natural Resources Fund (PSPFX). With crude oil at yet another all-time high, China importing 47% more oil in June than it did last year, and the Middle East a powder keg waiting to explode into chaos, I expect PSPFX to take off. If not yet on board, buy at the market."

George, Neil"If you take the time to poke around Brazil’s markets and economy, you'll be pleasantly surprised," says Neil George, editor of ByGeorge! "The economy is expanding and inflation remains calm. Growth is visible on many fronts. Agriculture is important in Brazil, particularly soybeans and coffee beans. Overall, the market in Brazil makes the US look like we're the third world. Brazil Fund (BZF NYSE) holds the best of Brazil's local market. Its overall return was more than 113% against the S&P's 10% loss for the past five years. Meanwhile, Korea Fund (KF NYSE) is a great closed-end investment company. Over the last five years alone, it’s averaged a more than 7% average return with only one down year in the past seven. The fund also has some of the most impressive Korean giants from key industries imbedded in it. It starts with Samsung, the fund’s top holding, representing 15% of the fund. Samsung not only makes some of the highest quality consumer electronics, including the latest digital televisions, but it’s also the world’s biggest chipmaker."

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