Back in the thick of October's market madness, I wrote about the benefits of owning good actively managed funds during periods of market turmoil. I still think there's a lot of merit to that idea -- essentially, paying a small fee to a veteran management team to lead you through the storm.
And sure enough, since I wrote that article, many of the funds I'd had in mind have looked pretty strong. But as a few readers of that October article pointed out, many of the best active funds have been closed to new investors for years.
Good news: That's changing. Reductions in fund assets -- whether from market losses or from investors fleeing equity funds for less volatile investments -- together with more attractive stock market valuations have led many managers to reconsider their decisions to close. Quite a few great funds have reopened in the last year. If you've been wanting to get in, now's your chance.
Good news, bad news
A mutual fund's decision to close can be good or bad, depending on your perspective. It's usually good if you're already invested in the fund -- decisions to close are usually driven by the fund's managers, who are often concerned about their ability to find and buy enough good investments.
As investors, we want our managers to feel like they can always find good uses for new money. Funds that choose to keep growing indefinitely can end up looking a lot like index funds, offering market-average performance (at best) with active-management fees.
The classic example is the once-giant Fidelity Magellan (FMAGX), which Fidelity finally closed in the late 1990s as its assets approached the ridiculous $100 billion mark. It's much smaller and more focused these days, but big positions in names like Corning
On the other hand...
Of course, it's bad news when a great fund is closed and you're not in it. Unless you're grandfathered in, perhaps through your retirement plan at work, you're out of luck. But recent reopenings have brought us some great opportunities.
For instance, many investors were quite pleased by Dodge & Cox's decision to reopen two of their biggest funds -- Dodge & Cox Balanced (DODBX) and Dodge & Cox Stock (DODGX). Likewise, Magellan notwithstanding, many were happy when Fidelity decided to reopen the superstar Contrafund (FCNTX) and Low-Priced Stock Fund (FLPSX), two of the fund giant's brightest lights.
I particularly like Low-Priced Stock, which is managed by the excellent Joel Tillinghast and powered by intriguing names like Constellation Brands
And that's the thing. As always in a world where three out of four actively managed funds lag the market over time, and where more and more investors are turning away from active funds altogether, the trick is to find the good ones. Many of the funds that look good at first glance -- or even second or third glance -- just aren't worthy of your investment.
Happily for us, Foolish fund guru Amanda Kish is on the case.
Find the best while the window's open
In the new issue of the Fool's Champion Funds newsletter, available online at 4 pm today, the aforementioned Amanda points us to a couple of newly reopened gems that are worth some serious consideration.
One in particular strikes me as an excellent investment for right now. It's a balanced fund, split between stocks and bonds -- but with much better performance than you'd expect from a half-bond fund. It's got everything we look for in a great fund, like veteran management, low fees, and a reasonable turnover rate.
More to the point, it has an investment style that seems particularly well-suited for a choppy bear market in a recessionary environment, with big holdings in booze giant Diageo
So what is it? I don't want to steal Amanda's thunder -- click here to read her full report on this great fund. If you're not a member, no worries -- a free trial gets you 30 days of full access, with absolutely no obligation to subscribe.
Fool contributor John Rosevear has no position in the stocks or funds mentioned. Diageo is a Motley Fool Income Investor recommendation. Try any of our Foolish newsletters free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy is always open for business.