NEW YORK (
Gabelli Utility Trust
soared 21% in November, the best performance of any closed-end fund.
While 63% of the utility fund's assets are invested in electric utilities like
Hawaiian Electric Industries
, up 13% for the month, two of the fund's top-performing holdings were delivery platforms for media. Satellite TV competitors
rose 31% and 20%, respectively, even as competition in that industry heats up.
Investors' confidence rose in those satellite companies amid the impending juggernaut of a merged
and NBC Universal, a unit of
Satellite TV providers may win the head-to-head competition against cable by pushing ahead with more high-definition channels. On Dec. 29, DirecTV is launching a
satellite that will push its HD channel count to 200 by mid-2010.
In addition, maybe the Comcast deal will be scuttled on antitrust grounds. Comcast has a history of throwing its weight around and is still refusing to provide the Comcast-owned Versus channel to DirecTV at a price DirecTV is willing to pay.
Finally, mergers that reshape the competitive landscape of industries can set off a wave of additional mergers that could result in DirecTV and DISH looking for pairings with other media-content players.
, owner of ABC, and
, soon to be free of both its cable unit and AOL, would make an intriguing combination to balance Comcast's negotiating power.
The second-best-performing closed-end fund in November,
Enhanced S&P 500 Covered Call Fund
of IQ Investment Advisors, added 20% for the month. The fund's strategy is to hold
and all the other members of the
S&P 500 Index
in the same proportions as the index and then to write one-month call options against that portfolio to generate income. The fund also makes leveraged bets using swap contracts on the
CBOE S&P 500 BuyWrite BXM Index
that tracks the results of a hypothetical covered call strategy on the S&P 500 Index.
In an ideal scenario for a covered call strategy, the underlying stock portfolio rises in value slowly enough that the call options expire worthless. In the worst case, stocks plunge like they did last year, wiping out any income generated from selling the option contracts. If stocks stay in a trading range and the options being written by the fund have strike prices above that range, the fund could continue to do well.
The third-best closed-end performer in November,
DWS RREEF Real Estate Fund
, is making the most of a rebound in real estate investment trusts by doubling in value in the past year. The fund has built back 20% in a month on returns of 17% in
, 12% in
, and 7.2% in
Simon Property Group
>>See our new stock quote page.
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.