STOCKS & BONDS


Great Deals in Banking and Investing Right Now

Closed-End Funds

Closed-end funds trade on exchanges just as stocks do, but their share prices are typically more or less than the value of their underlying assets, creating opportunities for bargains. Take AllianceBernstein Income Fund (symbol ACG).At a bit less than $8 a share in early June, the fund traded at 7% below its net asset value and yielded a tidy 6.6%. The fund invests mainly in triple-A-rated U.S. fixed-income securities, but it also holds foreign debt. Another bargain, Alpine Global Premier Properties Fund (AWP), holds real estate stocks, with about 40% of assets in the U.S. and the rest scattered around the world. At $5.49, the fund traded at an 18% discount to NAV and yielded 7.2%.


ETF Trades

Investors with a brokerage account at Charles Schwab, Fidelity or Vanguard can now trade many exchange-traded funds with no commission -- making ETFs more appealing for dollar-cost averaging or rebalancing your portfolio regularly.

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Euro Stocks

The euro and European stocks have taken a beating this year as investors fret about whether spendthrift nations such as Greece, Spain and Portugal can repay their debts (see GOING LONG: The Upside of the Euro Crisis). With the MSCI Europe index down 20% from April 15 through June 4, deals in European stocks abound. Amid the wreckage, we like stocks of large companies with thriving operations beyond Europe.

A weak euro gives the Continent's exporters a boost. Expect two German companies, SAP (SAP), a business-software maker, and Siemens (SI), an electrical-equipment conglomerate, to benefit mightily because both companies generate more than 40% of their sales outside of Europe. At $42, SAP's American depositary receipts are down 13% since April 15 (all prices are as of the June 4 close). Siemens, at $87, also dropped 13%.

Even if Europe is unable to solve its financial woes, drug stocks should hold up well because of their defensive characteristics. Roche (RHHBY), which acquired Genentech in 2009, focuses on cutting-edge biotech drugs. At $35, the stock has sunk 17% since mid April and trades for only 11 times expected 2010 earnings.

U.K.-based spirits maker Diageo (DEO) isn't headquartered on the Continent, but we recommend it for the good cheer it brings to bargain hunters. The company owns eight of the world's 20 best-selling liquor brands, including Johnnie Walker whisky and Smirnoff vodka. At $62, the stock has fallen 13% since April 15.


Low-Fee Funds

You needn't possess a small fortune to invest in top-notch funds. Just $100 will grant you access to Schwab S&P 500 Index (SWPPX), which tracks Standard & Poor's 500-stock index. Index funds are highly cost-efficient because they aim merely to match, rather than beat, their benchmarks. And with a 0.09% expense ratio, Schwab's is the cheapest of all funds that follow the S&P 500.

With a $500 initial investment you gain entry to Homestead Value (HOVLX). The management's approach of buying good companies that are temporarily out of favor has generated 4.1% annualized gains over the past ten years, besting the S&P 500 by an average of six percentage points per year. The fund charges a reasonable 0.80% in annual expenses.

Looking for a really low hurdle? You can open an account with T. Rowe Price Equity Income (PRFDX), a member of the Kiplinger 25, with as little as $50 to start, provided you commit to funding your account with automatic deposits of at least $50 per month. By investing mainly in high-quality dividend payers, veteran manager Brian Rogers has driven the fund to a 3.4% annualized return over the past ten years. Annual fees are 0.72%.


Credit Cards

Credit cards are expanding 0% offers on new purchases and balance transfers. One of the best deals is the Citi Platinum Select MasterCard, which has a 0% balance-transfer offer (with a 3% transaction fee) and a zero rate on purchases for up to 18 months. The card carries no annual fee and a perk: a $30 credit if you charge $30 in the first three months.

For more deals, see LowCards.com.


Banks

Thanks to the Internet, anyone anywhere in the U.S. can earn as much as 3.5% on an account, up to $25,000, with no fees and no minimum balance, at Westfield Bank in Ohio. You’re also reimbursed up to $12 a month for ATM fees. To qualify, you must receive your account statement online, use your debit card 12 times a month, and arrange for direct deposit or make at least one automatic payment a month. Find more high-yielding accounts at www.checkingfinder.com.

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