Author Archives: David Snowball

About David Snowball

David Snowball, PhD (Massachusetts). Cofounder, lead writer. David is a Professor of Communication Studies at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, a nationally-recognized college of the liberal arts and sciences, founded in 1860. For a quarter century, David competed in academic debate and coached college debate teams to over 1500 individual victories and 50 tournament championships. When he retired from that research-intensive endeavor, his interest turned to researching fund investing and fund communication strategies. He served as the closing moderator of Brill’s Mutual Funds Interactive (a Forbes “Best of the Web” site), was the Senior Fund Analyst at FundAlarm and author of over 120 fund profiles. David lives in Davenport, Iowa, and spends an amazing amount of time ferrying his son, Will, to baseball tryouts, baseball lessons, baseball practices, baseball games … and social gatherings with young ladies who seem unnervingly interested in him.

August 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

For those of us who teach, August is a bittersweet month. Each year we approach summer like a gaggle of penitent drunks. This time, we promise, it’ll be different. We’ll do better. Trust us: we will revise all of our courses for fall. We will catch up on that mountain of books heaped beside the chair. We will finish that book manuscript (Miscommunication in the Workplace, 2d ed., in my case.). On top of which, we’ll see our children without the use of small electronic devices, we’ll be out there running at 6:00 each morning, we’ll get our roughage and Continue reading →

Morningstar’s universe

By David Snowball

We regularly lament the fact that several hundred consistently four- and five-star funds have lost Morningstar analyst coverage over the years. Our almost-monthly feature “Left Behind by Morningstar” profiles a fund that once received analyst coverage but has now been ignored for five or more years. This month we profile Evermore Global Value (EVGBX / EVGIX), rated four-star for the past three years, past five years and overall. It’s a Euro-centric special situations fund run by David Marcus, whose roots are in the Mutual Series funds from the days of Michael Price’s reign. It’s both good and a good diversifier.

At the same time, we want to celebrate funds that have Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Matthias Knerr and Andrew Manton, Shelton International Select Equity (SISLX/SISEX)

By David Snowball

Since the number of funds we can cover in-depth is smaller than the number of funds worthy of in-depth coverage, we’ve decided to offer one or two managers each month the opportunity to make a 200 word pitch to you. That’s about the number of words a slightly-manic elevator companion could share in a minute and a half. In each case, I’ve promised to offer a quick capsule of the fund and a link back to the fund’s site. Other than that, they’ve got 200 words and precisely as much of your time and attention as you’re willing to share. These aren’t endorsements; they’re opportunities to learn more.

The first to do it was Harry Houdini, on January 7th, 1918. Criss Angel upped the ante with a herd in 2013. Penn & Teller gave it a comic twist in 2015 with their “Vanishing African Continue reading →

Evermore Global Value (EVGBX/EVGIX), August 2017

By David Snowball

Objective and Strategy

Evermore Global Value Fund seeks capital appreciation by investing in a global portfolio of 30-40 securities. The Fund’s special situations strategy is to identify companies trading at substantial discounts to their estimates of intrinsic value, and where catalysts exist to close these gaps.  Although they are opportunistic investors and can buy securities of any market capitalization, their sweet spot has been in micro to mid-cap opportunities.  They also have the ability to invest beyond the equity market in “less liquid” investments, such as distressed debt, can hold short positions in merger/arbitrage situations or to hedge market risk, and are willing to hold a up to 15% in cash.

Adviser

Evermore Global Advisors, LLC. Evermore was founded Continue reading →

Moerus Worldwide Value (MOWNX / MOWIX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Moerus Worldwide Value pursues long term capital appreciation, primarily by investing in foreign and domestic common stocks that it believes are deeply undervalued. The portfolio is constructed from the bottom-up through fundamental analysis; which is to say the manager cares about finding 15-50 great stocks with no particular interest in paralleling some indexes sector, size or country weightings. As of May 31, 2017, the fund is invested in 37 stocks.

Adviser

Moerus Capital Management, LLC. Moerus is a Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

It’s rare that I encounter the term “quantamental” twice in the same set of filings. Okay, it’s unheard of. I think they just made it up to irk me.

It’s also rare that Vanguard launches two new funds, much less the global version of two of their most legendary funds: Wellesley and Wellington. It’s hard to imagine why these won’t be $10 billion funds in, oh, about a year.

Calvert Ultra-Short Income NextShares

Calvert Ultra-Short Income NextShares will seek to maximize income, to the extent consistent with preservation of capital, through investment in short-term bonds and Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

The industry appears to be in full summer-beach mode, or its doing so splendidly that there’s no need to even think about changing anything. In any case, July saw the smallest number of announced changes in about five years.

Updates

Our July 2017 profile of Matthews Asia Credit Opportunities (MCRDX/MICPX) described it as investing in high-yield bonds. That’s correct but incomplete. Manager Satya Patel reminded us that the fund’s core investments can include “convertibles, hybrids and derivatives with fixed income characteristics.” Indeed, since inception convertible bonds have represented 20-25% of the portfolio. We’ve corrected the profile to reflect that. The fund has built a substantial performance advantage over its peers since inception, similar to the consistent success of its older Continue reading →

July 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s summer time, an especially blessed and cursed interval for those of us who teach. On the one hand, we’re mostly freed from the day-to-day obligation to be in the classroom. Some of us write, some travel, some undertake “such other duties as may from time to time be assigned” by our colleges. On the other hand, we hear the clock ticking. All year long, as we try to face down a stack of 32 variably-literate essays at 11 p.m. Sunday night, we think “if I can just make it to summer, I’ll recharge and it’ll be great!” About the first thing we notice when summer does arrive, is that Continue reading →

Autonomous vehicles, huge gaping sinkholes and your portfolio

By David Snowball

I wonder, occasionally, about a world dominated by self-driving cars, sometimes called “autonomous vehicles.” GM announced in June that they’ve piloted 180 autonomous vehicles and that they’ve got the capability to begin mass production of them. For now, they’re committing $600,000,000 a year to the development.

Last year, Goldman Sachs projected that, between driver-assistance technology and autonomous vehicles, the market will grow from about $3 billion in 2015 to $96 billion in 2025 and $290 billion in 2035. One key is Continue reading →

Matthews Asia Credit Opportunities (MCRDX / MICPX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The managers seek total return over the long term. They invest in debt issued by Asian corporations, governments and supranatural institutions. The managers invest, primarily, in high-yield, dollar-denominated debt though they define that term broadly enough to incorporate both high-yield bonds and debt-related instruments such as convertible bonds, hybrids and derivatives with fixed income characteristics.  Around 20-25% of the portfolio has been in convertible bonds since inception, and that percentage is been pretty stable from year to year. 

Adviser

Matthews International Capital Management, LLC, the Investment Advisor to the Matthews Asia Funds, was founded Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Artisan Thematic Fund (ARTTX)

By David Snowball

On April 24, 2017, Artisan Partners launched Artisan Thematic Fund (ARTTX). The managers seek to identify secular themes that will have an enduring impact on business, ideally identifying those themes sooner and more clearly than their competitors. There’s a point at which a development transitions from being geeky-cool to being a driver of corporate profits; Artisan refers to that as Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before fund companies are allowed to offer mutual funds to the public, they need to submit them to SEC review. The SEC has 75 days to ponder the fate of the newly-registered funds before allowing them to proceed. The registration period is also called “the quiet period” because fund companies are not allowed to talk about their funds in registration. This month’s good news is that most of the mutual funds in registration are sensible strategies from respected shops: Artisan, AQR, Brown Advisory, T. Rowe Price and others. The other part of the news is that the ETF industry continues to crank out a freakish mishmash. That includes the Quincy Jones Streaming Music, Media & Entertainment ETF, the Republican Policies Fund (GOP), the Democratic Policies Fund (DEMS) and the European Union Breakup Fund (EUXT). Continue reading →

June 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

And they’re off!” signals both the start of a horse race and the end of a class’s years at college.

Augustana just launched 485 more grads in your direction. It’s our 157th assault on adult life, and one of our largest. I’m pleased that Mike Daniels was the student selected to speak at commencement but he’s so durn Augie. Mike’s a defensive lineman, but also a jazz musician. He’s an accountant, but also a first team NCAA Academic All-American. He’s been to Italy (with the football team), but also managed to sneak in three internships on his way to working for Deloitte & Touche. He’s a good man who overtly rejects “good enough” as a goal; that is not, he said, Continue reading →

The Dry Powder Gang, updated

By David Snowball

“Put your trust in God but keep your powder dry.”

Oliver Cromwell, 1650, to the soldiers of the New Model Army as they prepared to forge an Irish river and head into battle.

Cromwell was a dour, humorless (or “humourless”) religious fanatic charged with squashing every Catholic and every independent thought in the British Isles because, well, that’s what God demanded. Famine, plague, deportations, mass death and deportations followed.

But even Cromwell knew that the key to victory was Continue reading →

Time to put on your big-boy pants and check your investments

By David Snowball

As I noted in my publishers letter this month, this article, originally published in May, contained a substantial and utterly boneheaded mathematical error. After we published it, two things happened: first, readers took the article seriously enough to find the error and report it; second, our colleague Charles, substantially revised the method for calculating the maximum drawdown for funds in my portfolio which haven’t been around for a full market cycle. Because those changes were material, we decided to re-present this article as a public service.


Sorry, I don’t have a really gender-neutral alternatives to “big-boy pants.”

In all likelihood, you might expect to experience considerable ugliness in financial markets in the months ahead. That’s not a timing call, it’s a statement of the obvious.

What’s behind it?

The bull market in stocks is Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before fund companies are allowed to offer mutual funds to the public, they need to submit them to SEC review. The SEC has 75 days to ponder the fate of the newly-registered funds before allowing them to proceed. The registration period is also called “the quiet period” because fund companies are not allowed to talk about their funds in registration. Happily, we are! The once-steady flow of 20-30 new funds a month has dwindled to a half dozen, many of which are simply converted versions of hedge funds or separately managed accounts. The former are more common this month, with five hedge funds morphing into two new mutual funds, including an unprecedented four-for-one merger and conversion offered up by Driehaus. Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

It’s been an unusually busy month in the industry, with nearly three dozen funds liquidated or slated for liquidation, as well as a surprising number of open funds closing to new investors and closed funds opening to them. And, as ever, the “smoke and marketing” crowd has re-branded a bunch of funds; most, not surprisingly, aren’t very good. Continue reading →

May 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The theory says that our academic year ends in two weeks. As I gazed this morning across rows of slightly-stunned faces, I realized that the college’s schedule and the students’ don’t always align.

With the weather turning toward summer, the lawn calling and the campus in bloom, I’m intensely sympathetic. Continue reading →

Morningstar Investment Conference 2017: Six smart guys

By David Snowball

I’ll tell you about the six smart guys. They represent a bit over half of the interviews and discussions I participated in during Morningstar’s annual Fest at the McCormick. My normal schedule mixed one-on-one interactions with sitting in on panels and keynote presentations; the changing emphasis of the conference, rather away from hearing from mutual fund managers and strategists, and toward the business concerns of the advisors, led me to focus exclusively on talking with interesting folks.

Many of these interviews will serve as the seedbeds for upcoming fund profiles. In particular, we hope to celebrate Continue reading →