There's a neat video on YouTube, showing viewers how to make an easy $10 from a friend. You basically take out a $20 bill and ask them for another $20 bill. You then put both bills in a box and ask them if they want to buy the box for $30.
The friend will likely agree, unaware that he or she is actually paying $50 for a $40 payout.
You know it's an effective trick because half of the viewer comments are from poor saps who can't figure out who is walking away with the extra $10 in the exchange.
This brings me to closed-end funds. Many of them continue to trade at steep discounts to their actual holdings, despite six months of rallying markets. One of the many intriguing offerings at the moment is Royce Value Trust
The polite way to rob mutual funds
Closed-end funds differ from their more popular open-ended mutual fund cousins in that they trade throughout the day on the stock exchanges. There are a set number of shares outstanding, and that actually gives the portfolio manager the flexibility to freely invest without worrying about redemption orders or where to allocate income purchases.
Exchange-traded funds -- or ETFs -- are similar, but closed-end funds go beyond index tracking. Closed-end funds are typically actively managed and have been around for decades before ETFs became the flavor of the week.
Royce Value Trust is no slouch. A $10,000 investment made at the time of the fund's launch in November 1986 would have been worth $74,317 as of June 30. One can compare that to the $51,852 you would have had if you'd invested the same amount in the broad Russell 2000 index.
Royce Value Trust's investments may be familiar to some of our newsletter subscribers. Here are some of the portfolio's 10 largest holdings as of the end of July:
Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers
If that's not enough to warm you up to the fund's potential, consider that several of Royce's traditional mutual funds have put in similarly strong performances.
The attraction to Royce Value Trust is that while the stock closed at $9.44 last Friday, its net asset value (NAV) is a whopping $11.41 a share. Investors can buy $11.41 worth of vetted value stocks at a 17.3% discount.
Deep value meets deeper value
It gets better.
Charles Royce is one of the more prolific value investors in the fund industry, and he serves as Royce Value Trust's lead portfolio manager. He's a stiff advocate of underpriced securities, and dabbles in microcap and small-cap equities where the greater pricing discrepancies can occur.
The weighted average P/E ratio of the profitable stocks in his funds is a modest 14.4. The weighted average price-to-book ratio is an attractive 1.5. And if you like those metrics, remember that they're based on the NAV. Investors are buying in at a 17% discount, so it's as if they are checking in at weighted average P/E and P/B multiples of just 12 and 1.25, respectively.
Now, an important caveat here is that Royce Value Trust has typically traded at a similar discount to its NAV. You may be paying $0.83 for a dollar's worth of small value stocks, but it's not as if you can cash out at a buck. Investing isn't that easy.
However, you will find plenty of neglected closed-end funds out there, trading at ridiculous markdowns to what they would be worth in liquidation. If you're going to buy a value fund, why not buy it a discount?
Getting more bang out of your buck is what investing is all about. At the very least, I just taught you how to make an easy $10 from a friend, or preferably a former friend.
Other ways to get down with the bargains: