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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: tyler1215 on August 02, 2014, 03:22:32 PM

Title: Ever heard of a Closed-End Fund
Post by: tyler1215 on August 02, 2014, 03:22:32 PM
I just heard about this from my brother.  I did a quick google search and came up with the link below

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/closed-endinvestment.asp

It sounds interesting, especially since most of us on here are not active traders.

Does anyone have any experience with closed-end funds?
Title: Re: Ever heard of a Closed-End Fund
Post by: brewer12345 on August 02, 2014, 07:21:03 PM
Yep, I own a few.  They can be good investments, but have a few possible gotchas: high leverage, high expense ratios, possibly trading at a premium to the value of the underlying assets. 
Title: Re: Ever heard of a Closed-End Fund
Post by: AH013 on August 04, 2014, 11:37:11 AM
From my experience, closed end funds are the worst of both worlds of ETFs and regular mutual funds (open-end funds).

With a regular open-end mutual fund, you're buying an open-ended pool of investments.  Say a fund holds a pool of stocks worth $1,000 and they have 100 shares of the fund outstanding.  If you sell your 10 shares they owe you $100.  If you give them $100, they give you another 10 shares.  The fact that the investment pool can grow or shrink at any time makes it open-ended.   Your best bargaining chip as an investor is that if the managers stink or you need the money, you can sell your shares at a price equal to whatever the underlying stocks, bonds, etc are actually worth at the end of the day, thus receiving a perfectly fair value.  So pro is you always get fair value, but con is limited liquidity (only can sell at the end of the day for an unknown but fair price).

With an ETF, the pool of assets is fixed but also open ended.  When you buy an ETF, you are getting a known percentage of a pool of assets.  So a share of an ETF may represent 1 share each of Apple, IBM, Google and Microsoft.  When you buy/sell an ETF, you are doing so with another investor, so the price of a share of the ETF may be more or less than the sum of those 4 companies.  However your trump card is that larger institutions can create or destroy shares of the ETF -- so that if they deliver 10,000 shares each of Apple, IBM, Google and Microsoft, the ETF provider gives them 10,000 shares of the ETF.  This ensures that you are paying/getting a fair value, as these larger players could exploit any differences by creating/destroying shares of the ETF until the price is roughly fair again.  So pro is continuous ability to sell and generally lower management fees, but con is the price may not exactly be fair (1% or less away from fair price).

With a closed-end fund, the investment pool is fixed.  The managers collect all your money at the beginning, and doesn't take on additional investments.  When you want to sell, you sell to another investor who pays whatever they feel like, which may be higher or lower than the sum of all the stocks the mutual fund has.  Usually it is lower.  This is because if the managers suck or charge too much, you cannot get your money back from them -- you can only sell to a greater fool who probably also realizes that the managers suck / charge too much.  So like ETF, pro is continuous liquidity, but con is price is usually never near fair market value (premiums / discounts of 5% are common, and up to 20% is not uncommon) and the management fees are high.

There are various strategies investors try to use to game closed-end funds.  One is to sell an overpriced fund short, buy an underpriced similar fund, hope they both converge to fairly priced and make money from both ends.  It's generally a fool's errand and you are paying 2x high fees for as long as you wait for this convergence to hopefully happen.  To me this is like investing in deteriorating companies and making side bets with your friends about which one will go bankrupt first.
Title: Re: Ever heard of a Closed-End Fund
Post by: TreeTired on August 04, 2014, 11:41:38 AM
There are some websites devoted to closed end funds that allow you to search on a variety of features,  like whether the fund uses leverage and whether it trades at a premium or a discount.

The amazing thing to me about closed end funds is that they are successfully sold new!  I would never buy a new issue CEF because they are created mainly to benefit their own management and the brokers that sell them.   However,  a seasoned issue with an interesting strategy trading at a significant discount and I might be interested.  Even good funds often trade at a discount to their net asset value just because of the high management fees.