Get Into This Fund While You Still Can

The market's malaise is a savvy fund investor's opportunity.

Several mutual funds have reopened their doors this year.

The potent combination of diminishing asset bases and attractive stock prices finds once-proud fund managers hungry for new money. That should be a dinner bell for investors who now have a shot to hitch a ride with some of the country's best fund managers in time for the next market rally.

I don't think investors should jump into any storied fund that dusts off the welcome mat. I came up with five reasons to steer clear of the reopening of the legendary Fidelity Magellan (FMAGX), chief among them being that the manager who produced the fund's historic performance left the fund 18 years ago.

I have a completely different reaction to yesterday's news that Third Avenue Small-Cap Value Fund (TASCX) is plugging in the neon Vacancy sign.

For starters, the fund has only been closed for two years. Manager Curtis Jensen has been there since the fund's inception 11 years ago. New investors aren't chasing the ghost of managers past.

The fund has fared well, with annualized returns of 16.2% and 9.6% over the past five and 10 years, respectively. Morningstar (Nasdaq: MORN  ) has been impressed with the fund's risk-related return, granting it a rating of four -- out of five -- stars.

Does the fund stretch the definition of small capitalization? Yes. Some of its largest holdings include $21.6 billion Brookfield Asset Management (NYSE: BAM  ) , $3.3 billion Lexmark (NYSE: LXK  ) , and $3.1 billion St. Mary Land & Exploration (NYSE: SM  ) .

Jensen is also a bit of a globetrotter, as two of his five largest holdings are Japanese companies. Fording Canadian Coal Trust (NYSE: FDG  ) is another top holding.

I don't mind any of that. I actually appreciate international diversification and the ability to hunt for value outside of the smallest of companies. I would rather see that than a fund with nearly $2 billion in assets stretch itself thin by loading up on way too many domestic microcaps to make a difference.

As long as investors know that going in, Jensen has proven his ability to manage his well-rounded fund.

Champion Funds newsletter subscribers know the Third Avenue fund family well. The research service has recommended a pair of Third Avenue funds, and both have handily beaten the market since being singled out.

Third Avenue Small-Cap Value's reopening doesn't mean that it will become the third Third Avenue fund recommended by the newsletter. However, interested investors better get going on their due diligence.

All of the funds that have reopened this year can just as quickly close right back up if the market -- and their asset bases -- bounce back.

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