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Hot Yields Drive Rebirth of Closed-End Funds

In recent years ETFs surpassed closed-end funds in total assets, with about $420 billion in ETFs at the end of 2006, compared with $300 billion or so in closed-end funds. Both, however, are dwarfed by open-end mutual funds, which have more than $10 trillion in assets.

Wall Street has reacted to the shift, with many investment banks getting rid of their closed-end fund analysts. Even Morningstar stopped providing editorial analysis of closed-end funds toward the end of the 1990s, although it has since resumed.

Now, not only is the closed-end fund industry not declining, for the first five months this year, it saw more new launches than each of the last three years. This year through May 31, 22 closed-end funds hit the market, bringing in total net proceeds of $19.74 billion, or an average of $897.1 million per fund, says fund research firm Lipper. Compare that with 2006, which saw 21 offerings the whole year, and total net proceeds of $10.1 billion, averaging $481.3 million each.

"Some people did think ETFs were going to bury closed-end funds, much like people thought index funds would be the end of actively managed funds in the 1990s," says Jonathan Isaac, vice president for closed-end products at Eaton Vance. "But I think people are moving to closed-end funds because they offer an extremely attractive alternative to other fixed-income vehicles. Nothing can compare with the yield offered in a closed-end fund."

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