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TSC Ratings Begins Coverage on Eight Closed-End Funds

TheStreet.com Ratings initiated coverage of eight closed-end funds that accrued a sufficient track record of risk and performance data by the end of April.

None of the closed-end funds that began trading in March and April 2007 received buy ratings. Only one fund ranked in the hold range. The remainder underperformed their more seasoned competitors on a risk-adjusted return basis.

The Nuveen Multi-Currency Short-term Government Income Fund (JGT), the best-rated fund of the group at C-, barely avoided sinking into the bottom 30% of our rankings. The stated investment strategy of this closed-end fund is to be invested in non-U.S, short term securities in each country's local currency.

However, the largest holding of Nuveen Multi-Currency is actually Federal Home Loan Bank mortgages at 47.6% of the portfolio. A 58.3% portion of the fund is made up of U.S. agency & asset-backed securities, while 41.6% of the fund is sovereign debt with maturities less than five years including 15% Turkey, 14.9% Hungary, 4.3% United Kingdom, 3.9% Mexico, and 3.1% Norway.

The 10.8% discount to net asset value may represent the negative outlook for mortgages and the short-term stabilization of the U.S. dollar with the end of interest rate easing.

The next fund on our new coverage list, the D-rated Evergreen Global Dividend Opportunity Fund (EOD), picks stocks from anywhere in the world based on their current or predicted future ability to generate dividends for income focused investors.

Brilliant portfolio selections of Transocean (RIG), Maine & Maritimes (MAM) and Southwestern Energy (SWN) were overwhelmed by one-year double-digit duds of USEC (USU), MetroPCS Communications (PCS), and Genesis Energy (GEL).

Also, with an initial rating of D, the Nuveen Core Equity Alpha Fund (JCE) attempted to use a proprietary mathematical process and active management to pick 250 to 450 of the members of the S&P 500 with a goal of beating the index by 3% to 4%.

The fund earned a total return of -12.51% on large holdings of Exxon Mobil (XOM), AT&T (T), General Electric (GE) and Merck (MRK).

When compared to an S&P 500 index return of -4.68% for the year ending April 30, the fund underperformed this large cap benchmark. This just goes to prove once again that creating beautiful, back-tested models is much easier than performing in the real-world trading environment.

The last initial D rating goes to the Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Domestic Debt Fund (EDD). In the name of the fund, "domestic" refers to local currency holdings of sovereign debt from Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey and Hungary.

The D-rated BlackRock Global Equity Income Trust (BFD) holds a portfolio of global stocks with a weighted average market capitalization of around $76 billion, including General Electric, Pfizer (PFE), Altria (MO) and Chevron (CVX). The fund then writes stock-index call options against the holdings.

For Alpine Global Premier Properties Fund (AWP), down 27.53%, this was the wrong year to have launched a real estate-focused fund. The fund has an interesting strategy of cycling among what it calls the "three pillars" of real estate value: owners, developers and financiers that won't pay off if all three contract at the same time.

If you are looking for exposure to high-dividend-paying, Asia Pacific companies, then check out the ING Asia Pacific High Dividend Equity Income Fund (IAE). The fund lost just 3.23% for the year and finished at a discount of 8.7% to net asset value. The countries most represented include 20.9% Australia, 16.2% Taiwan, 14.5% Hong Kong, 12.3% South Korea, and 10.6% Singapore.

The worst-rated fund among the new coverage, at E-, is the First Trust Strategic High Income Fund III (FHO) down 30.34%. At a premium of 32% to net asset value, this fund could fall further without any additional erosion of the underlying subinvestment-grade CDOs, corporate bonds and residential mortgage-backed securities.

Research Methodology

TheStreet.com Ratings condenses the available fund performance and risk data into a single composite opinion of each fund's risk-adjusted performance. This allows the unbiased identification of those funds that have historically done well and those that have underperformed the market. While there is no guarantee of future performance, these Investment Ratings provide a solid framework for making informed, timely investment decisions.

Newly Rated Closed-End Funds for April
Fund (Ticker) Initial Rating Total Return 1 Year % 4/30/08 Premium/ (Discount) Inception Date Objective
Nuveen Mlt-Cur Sht-Tm Govt Inc (JGT) C- -3.99 -10.8 4/25/2007 Global Income
Evergreen Global Dividend Opp Fund (EOD) D -6.06 -7.2 3/28/2007 Global Equity
Nuveen Core Equity Alpha Fund (JCE) D -12.51 -12.0 3/27/2007 Equity Income
Morgan Stanley Emg Mkts Dom Debt (EDD) D -7.21 -1.8 4/24/2007 Emerging Market Income
BlackRock Global Equity Inc Trust (BFD) D- -11.63 -8.8 3/30/2007 Global Equity
Alpine Global Premier Properties Fd (AWP) E -27.53 -4.9 4/26/2007 Growth & Income
ING Asia Pacific High Div Eq Inc Fd (IAE) E -3.23 -8.7 3/28/2007 Global Equity
First Trust Strategic High Inc III (FHO) E- -30.34 32.0 3/27/2007 Global Income
Source: TheStreet.com Ratings

Funds rated A or B are considered "Buy" rated based on a track record of higher than average risk-adjusted performance. Funds at the C level are rated as "Hold," while underperformers at the D and E levels our model ranks as "Sell."

For an explanation of our ratings, click here.

Kevin Baker became the senior financial analyst for TSC Ratings upon the August 2006 acquisition of Weiss Ratings by TheStreet.com, covering mutual funds. He joined the Weiss Group in 1997 as a banking and brokerage analyst. In 1999, he created the Weiss Group's first ratings to gauge the level of risk in U.S. equities. Baker received a B.S. degree in management from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and an M.B.A. with a finance specialization from Nova Southeastern University.

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