A Hot Fund Gets Ready to Close

Mutual Funds

A Hot Fund Gets Ready to Close

FMI Common Stock will stop taking money from new investors at the end of the year.

Good stock picking still counts for something. At FMI Common Stock (symbol FMIMX), it was good stock picking, rather than a flight to cash, that helped the fund limit its losses in 2008’s brutal stock market to 20%. That beat Standard & Poor’s MidCap 400-Stock index by a rousing 16 percentage points. And FMI, which invests in small and midsize companies, has continued to shine in ‘09: Year-to-date through October 8, it gained 33.9%, besting the S&P 400 by nearly three points.

Since the stock market bottomed on March 9, the fund has gained a resounding 80.8%. It earned that boost from a heavy stake in economically sensitive companies, such as Rockwell Automation, which makes industrial-control equipment, and Kirby Corp., which is the leading inland tank-barge operator in the U.S. Both companies passed the strict requirements of lead managers Ted Kellner and Patrick English, who look for underpriced shares of high-quality businesses with recurring revenues and strong defenses against competition.

Not many firms can pass such high hurdles. That’s why the fund is relatively concentrated, with fewer than 50 stocks. That’s also why the fund will close to new investors on December 31, 2009. By industry standards, the fund, with $871 million in assets, isn’t huge. But FMI runs a total of $2 billion with the same strategy, and the firm doesn’t want to run the risk of an asset overload that would cause the fund’s managers to lower their standards for picking stocks.