NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - Mutual fund investors often make the mistake of ignoring closed-end funds because they're small. However, some closed-end funds now sell at intriguing discounts to the value of their assets.
"It makes sense to buy a closed-end fund at a discount instead of taking a comparable open-end mutual fund," says Mariana Bush, a closed-end analyst for Wells Fargo (WFC).
Some managers of conventional mutual funds also run closed-end funds. Among the top performers who oversee both kinds of funds are Ron Baron, Mario Gabelli and Bill Gross.
To appreciate the appeal of closed-ends, consider the record of Jeffrey Gundlach, who manages one of the top-performing bond mutual funds, the TCW Total Return Bond Fund (TGLMX). During the past five years, the fund has returned 7.1% annually, outdoing 99% of its intermediate-term competitors, according to Morningstar (MORN).Gundlach also runs the TCW Strategic Income Fund (TSI), a closed-end that has returned 8% annually during the past five years and sells for a discount of 2.5% to its net assets. "The closed-end fund gives you a unique opportunity to invest in a top manager who has been able to steer away from problems in the mortgage markets," says Patrick Galley, portfolio manager of RiverNorth Core Opportunity Fund (RNCOX), an open-end fund that invests in closed-end funds. Like conventional mutual funds, closed-end funds invest in portfolios of stocks and bonds. Trading on stock exchanges, shares of closed-end funds can sometimes swing wildly, moving from discounts to premiums. This is very different from conventional mutual funds, which tend to be more stable because they always trade at the value of their net assets.