This month the temptation to buy, buy, buy is everywhere — at least, it is for an optimist, like me, who does not think we’re quite on the verge of another Great Depression. Stocks across almost every sector are historically cheap — that doesn’t mean they won’t get cheaper, but it may provide some comfort to long-term buyers who want to slowly creep back into this frightening market.
The title of this piece probably tells you that I’m not going to write about them in detail today, but many of the investments that most tempt me personally right now are closed-end funds — there are any number of them that are trading at significant discounts to their net asset value and that hold either high quality bonds or what one used to call “blue chip” stocks. The one that sticks in my mind at the moment is the Swiss Helvetia Fund (SWZ) — it’s trading at a big discount of about 14% as of Friday’s close (probably a bit more now, with the market getting beaten up again). Not much of a yield, since many of the stocks don’t pay high dividends, but what attracts me is that you get a nice discount, a reasonable expense ratio (just over 1%), and fully half of the stocks are companies that I know and would be comfortable owning individually, even without reviewing the rest of the portfolio (the top holdings that I like are Nestle, Roche, Novartis, Syngenta and ABB. Of course, you have to swallow a few shares of UBS along with the good stuff, and there may be other companies in the portfolio that I’m not crazy about). There was a brief mention in Barron’s last week, which helped close the discount a little bit, but if this gets back up to close to a 20% discount it will be hard not to consider it.
But that was really just a preamble — writing to you about a closed end fund isn’t all that exciting, and if you want to know what I’ve done with my personal portfolio lately you can just browse around this site. My most recent buys, for what it’s worth, have been Kinder Morgan Management (KMR) and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners (BWP), and Intuitive Surgical, all of which are still right around the price that I paid, within 10% or so.