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Lame Duck Congress Bodes Poorly for Stocks

Stocks in this article: CEFFX ^GSPC SPY

With a lame duck session set to begin, Singer says the fund will be either in cash, Treasuries or neutral (for dividends) when Congress is back in session. When Congress is out of session, the fund goes long the broader U.S. market through S&P 500 exchange traded funds.

The Congressional Effect Fund is small ($8 million in assets) and has a fast turnover rate due to the nature of the investment theme. Currently, it has a net asset value of $10.70 and a miniscule beta compared with the broad market, which is simply a reflection of Singer staying out of the stock market.

"We've had a very active Congress over the past few years, so they've been in session almost three-quarters of the time," Singer says. "Our performance hasn't suffered because we've been able to capture a lot of the upside in the market."

The mutual fund, which is up 15% in 2010 and ranks among the top 1% in performance and bottom 1% among risk, benefits from so-called relief rallies and uncertainly over legislation. Still, the fund trails the S&P 500 over three months by a wide margin.

"Whenever Congress is even considering legislation, the stocks of those industries come under pressure. Those sectors are often big enough to affect the entire market," he says. "Talk is not cheap. When they simply talk of reining in the insurers, we all lose wealth."

While some have called the Congressional Effect Fund a novelty, much like the Vice Fund (VICEX), Singer says his returns validate the investing style.

As with everything in the investing world, the Congressional Effect Fund is no sure bet. When Congress enacted tax cuts in 1997, including a cut to the capital-gains tax, the annualized average price increase on the days when Congress was in session was 59.5%, according to data collected by the Congressional Effect Fund. When Congress was out of session that year, there was an annualized average price loss of 4.6%.

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