EAS Fund Discovers New Emerging Markets

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Robert Isbitts has taken the EAS Genesis Fund ( EASIX) beyond emerging economies to what he calls "frontier" markets.

The mutual fund, which invests mainly in other mutual funds and exchange traded funds, has risen 10% this year, better than 60% of its Morningstar peers. Isbitts, a co-manager of the fund, also highlights companies that operate in clean energy and water management.

Welcome to TheStreet.com's Fund Manager Five Spot, where America's top mutual fund managers give their views and picks in five questions.

Are you bullish or bearish?

Isbitts: It depends on the time frame and the market we are referring to. On equities, I think we'll probably see higher prices three years from now, but as in the late 1930s, the path to recovery from financial collapse will be very uneven. That is, we are still in a secular bear market for stocks around the globe, but the "lower-lows and lower-highs" phase is ending, and we are getting closer to higher-lows and higher-highs. The path from one to the other is likely to be choppy but productive for those who consider more than simply "style-box" equity strategies. Right now, we are invested in equities, hedged somewhat, and ready to slam on the brakes on a moment's notice.

What is your top fund or ETF pick?

Isbitts: We have a variety of favorites, but if one is willing to look out as long as five years, I think there is a superior opportunity setting up in "environmentally sustainable companies." By this, I mean areas such as clean energy, water management, sustainable living and "green" transportation. The fund I like in this space is Winslow Green Growth ( WGGFX).

What is your best "sleeper" fund pick?

Isbitts: I'll give you two to provide an idea of the wide range of funds we research and use in the EAS Genesis Fund: Nakoma Absolute Return Fund ( NARFX) and T. Rowe Price Africa and Middle East Fund ( TRAMX). Nakoma runs a long-short fund and is run by a group we hold in high regard. They are risk managers first, return generators second. The T. Rowe Price fund allows us access to the frontier markets, which are markets not yet as developed as the more familiar emerging markets. We want to participate in the very long-term growth potential of these frontier markets, and this fund is a convenient way to do so with daily liquidity as part of our "fund-of-mutual funds" structure.

What is your favorite sector?

Isbitts: Our favorite sectors are the aforementioned environmental equities as well as global infrastructure. And since those ideas may take time for their true potential to be widely recognized by the market, we use a variety of hedging techniques in our fund to try to create a much smoother ride for the long-term investor.

Which sector or stock would you avoid?

Isbitts: I think that over a medium- to long-term time horizon, high-quality bonds and funds/ETFs that own them are an accident waiting to happen. I am not saying that the U.S. economy will collapse, but I believe that the U.S. government will not be able to borrow so cheaply going forward. If you look back at the last time we had higher inflation leading to higher bond yields, you will quickly see that there are some surprises waiting for financial advisers and their clients if they think that either their real and nominal capital can be preserved by investing the way they did in the 1990s.

I think this is an environment that calls for more flexible investment approaches to both stock and bond markets. High-quality bond funds are potentially the most perilous sector since investors expect volatility and large losses from time to time in equity funds, but not in funds that buy U.S. Treasuries.

Reported by Gregg Greenberg in New York.
Before joining TheStreet.com, Gregg Greenberg was a writer and segment producer for CNBC's Closing Bell. He previously worked at FleetBoston and Lehman Brothers in their Private Client Services divisions, covering high net-worth individuals and midsize hedge funds. Greenberg attended New York University's School of Business and Economic Reporting. He also has an M.B.A. from Cornell University's Johnson School of Business, and a B.A. in history from Amherst College.

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