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.

April 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to spring!

The weather’s getting better. It’s not clear that the quality of writing about mutual funds is.

“This couple followed the 11 tips to picking good mutual funds and now they’re rich!”

Ummm … they’re lying on a bed of British pounds so unless they made a Continue reading →

Morningstar to the industry: Move over. We can do it better ourselves.

By David Snowball

On March 6, 2017, Morningstar announced their intention to displace 50 existing mutual funds from their $30 billion Morningstar Managed Portfolio program and replace them with nine brand-new Morningstar-branded funds. Understandably, there’s been a bit of interest in the financial media, though much of it is behind paywalls. (I’m not complaining, by the way. Journalists need to be compensated.) The most notable “free” articles are:

Advisers split on Morningstar’s new mutual funds

Morningstar makes bid to offer mutual funds for exclusive use of advisers

Like everyone else, Morningstar expands its advisory business

By far the most thorough and balanced piece was How and why Morningstar sliced 16 bps for RIAs by dumping third-party mutual funds and stamping its Switzerland brand on its own mutual funds, written by Janice Kirkel of RIABiz. Continue reading →

Northern Global Tactical Asset Allocation (BBALX)

By David Snowball

Objective

The fund seeks a combination of growth and income. Northern Trust’s Investment Policy Committee develops tactical asset allocation recommendations based on economic factors such as GDP and inflation; fixed-income market factors such as sovereign yields, credit spreads and currency trends; and stock market factors such as domestic and foreign earnings growth and valuations. The managers execute that allocation by investing in other Northern funds and ETFs. As of 12/31/2016, the fund held two Northern funds and nine ETFs.

Adviser

Northern Trust Investments is part of Northern Trust Corp., a bank founded in 1889. The parent company provides Continue reading →

Launch Alert: 361 US Small Cap Equity ASFQX

By David Snowball

On December 30, 2016, 361 Capital Management launched 361 US Small Cap Equity (ASFQX). This fund is the newest embodiment of an investment strategy initiated by John Riddle and Mark Jaeger of BRC Investment Management. Messrs. Riddle and Jaeger co-founded BRC in 2005, then merged with 361 Capital in October 2016. BRC was managing about $800 million in assets at the time of the merger, 361 had about $1.3 billion.

What do you need to know? Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Some months, fund registrations are just weird. Perhaps that’s “the new normal,” a phrase that we’re allowed to use again now that former PIMCO chief Bill Gross and current PIMCO management have hugged, made up and announced that they can’t even remember what the silly fight was all about. PIMCO wrote a check of $81 million to Mr. Gross, which Mr. Gross rounded up to $100 million … and gave it to his own charitable foundation.  Beyond that, a fund about childhood, one with a $350 million minimum investment, nine Morningstar funds that you can’t have (and might not want), three inexplicable ones and a couple that are reasonably promising. Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Third Avenue Management, Marty Whitman and former president David Barse have agreed to a $14.25 million cash settlement of a lawsuit brought on behalf of investors in Third Avenue Focused Credit. The fund, if you recall, made headlines first through huge losses in the completely illiquid positions that dominated the portfolio, then by moving all of its assets into a locked trust which kept investors from reclaiming their money. The plan was to liquidate the illiquid when “rational” prices prevailed; after about 18 months, that process is still not complete. The whole mess has cost Third Avenue over $3 billion in assets and threatened its Continue reading →

March 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

 It’s spring! Could you tell the difference where you are? March 1 is the beginning of “meteorological spring” and I’m indisputably in the middle of Augustana’s Spring Break. (It always looked better on MTV.) Spring training has begun for major leaguers while Augie’s baseball team is currently 5-1 on their swing through Florida. I’ve just placed my order for a flat of native prairie plants (the “Happy Hummer” collection plus a few extra Jack in the Pulpit, Chip’s favorites) and have been paging through the Burpee’s catalog.

The announcement of spring does seem a bit tardy. Our February saw more 70 degree days than days with snow. Coming into this month, the Quad Cities had seen three 70 degree February days ever. We had five 70 degree days in the last 10 days of February, including the warmest February day in Continue reading →

Snowball’s potato portfolio

By David Snowball

I like gardening rather more than I like investing. I garden because it’s joyful, healthy and engaging. Most recently, I planted my first potato patch with four artisanal varieties of tubers, one each of russet, gold, red and blue. That meant adding a considerable quantity of organics and a bit of sand to a 4×4 south-facing patch that had been mostly weeds. You’re also supposed to “hill up” potatoes as they grow but I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out quite what that meant in the context of an open patch of earth. Instead, I collected grass clippings (a safe practice since I don’t chem my lawn) and kept everything but the leaves buried.  I’m stunned and delighted to report that it actually worked. I dug around in October and there was, like, food in the ground! Continue reading →

Has your fund been left behind by Morningstar?

By David Snowball

If so, you’re not alone.

There are hundreds of funds which Morningstar once covered that they can no longer afford to follow.  Morningstar started as seven guys working out of Joe Mansueto’s apartment. They’re now a publicly-traded global corporation with 3900 employees and $130 billion in assets under management (or advisement). More importantly, they’re a corporation with $600 million in annual expenses.

If you’ve got $600 million in bills, you really need more than $600 million in income and you don’t get that by worrying about small funds that aren’t on most advisors’ radar, especially when the entire universe of active funds is contracting.  Morningstar explains the rules this way, “We’re committed to covering those investments that are most relevant to investors and that hold a significant portion of industry assets.” In this case, “relevant” is pretty much Continue reading →

Homestead Growth (HNASX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks long-term capital appreciation by investing, primarily, in domestic large cap growth stocks. The portfolio is diversified (typically 60-75 names) but not sprawling. Direct foreign investment is currently about 5.6%, which is modest but also above-average for its Morningstar peer group.

In general, the fund’s subadvisor T. Rowe Price targets:

  • companies with characteristics that support sustainable double-digit earnings growth and
  • high-quality earnings, strong free cash flow growth, shareholder-oriented management, and rational competitive environments

Their preference is for firms with a lucrative and defensible niche which allows them to Continue reading →

Pin Oak Equity (POGSX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Pin Oak is a concentrated, all-cap fund. The portfolio currently holds 35 securities with much more exposure to small- and mid-cap stocks than its peers Portfolio construction begins with macro-level assessments of the economy, proceeds to analyses of industries and sectors, and then ends by buying and holding the most attractive stocks in the most attractive sectors. Oak Associates has a long and adamant tradition in favor of buying-and-holding just a few best-of-class stocks, so turnover is generally below 20%. Half of the portfolio’s 35 current stocks have been there for between five and 15 years.

Adviser

Oak Associates, ltd. Founded in 1985 and headquartered in Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Paul Espinosa, Seafarer Overseas Value (SFVLX/SIVLX)

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.

Paul Espinosa is the Lead Portfolio Manager of the Seafarer Overseas Value Fund and a co-manager of the Seafarer Overseas Growth and Income Fund (SFGIX/SIGIX). Paul joined Seafarer Capital Partners in 2014. Before that, he spent Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Polen International Growth Fund (POIRX/POIIX)

By David Snowball

On December 30, 2016, Polen Capital Management launched Polen International Growth Fund (POIIX). The fund is an international extension of the high-conviction strategy behind Polen Growth (POLRX/POLIX) and Polen Global Growth (PGIRX/PGIIX). Polen has over $9 billion in assets under management and is located in Boca Raton, Florida, “far away from the short-term pressures of Wall Street.”

The fund will typically invest in 25 to 35 large cap international stocks, including those domiciled in both developed and developing markets. It might, from time to time, dabble in a few mid-cap names. The manager will focus on Continue reading →

Prelaunch Alert: T. Rowe Price U.S. High Yield Fund

By David Snowball

On February 27, 2017, T. Rowe Price announced their plans to acquire and rebrand a very solid young high-yield bond fund. The rechristened offering will be available by the end of May, 2017.

The adopted fund is Henderson High Yield Opportunities Fund (HYOAX/HYOIX). The Henderson fund has just $61 million in assets and a four-year track record. It’s managed by Kevin Loome, who spent 11 years as a high-yield analyst at Price before leaving to become Head of High Yield Investment at Delaware Investments (which has $167 billion in assets under management) then Head of U.S. Credit at Henderson Global Investors NA, the U.S. subsidiary of Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

Updates

Stay of execution: the Mirae Asset Asia Fund (MALAX) and Emerging Markets Fund (MALGX) were both scheduled for liquidation. “[A]fter further consideration,” the Board changed its mind. Both are very solid little funds, with an emphasis on the “little.” They have $25 million in assets between them after almost seven years of operation. At the same time, both are four-star funds with the same manager and both are distinguished by capturing a bit less of the downside and a bit more of the upside than their peers. The question remains whether, given the current infatuation with passive funds, that will ever be enough for the funds to reach economic viability. Continue reading →

February 1, 2017

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

I’m sorry we were late to the party, but glad that you’re here. We had a rough start to February. Our estimable technical director Chip had a bad fall at work which took her out for three days. Just as we were preparing for launch, our site was vandalized by what appears to be an Indonesian hacking collaborative. Then as we thought we’d undone the damage and settled back to work, they slipped in again. (To be clear: you’re safe. We collect neither personal nor tracking information. Any financial stuff goes through Amazon and PayPal, groups that can pay for security obsessiveness. Mostly they seemed interested in vandalism for the sake of “bragging rights.”)

And then, to top it off, Mr. Trump was president. Continue reading →

AMG Chicago Equity Partners Balanced Fund (MBEAX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The managers aim to provide “high total investment return, consistent with the preservation of capital and prudent economic risk.” The fund normally holds 50-75% in equities with the remainder in bonds and cash. The equity sleeve is mostly mid- to large-cap US stocks; direct foreign investment is minimal. The income sleeve is mostly high quality, intermediate-term bonds. The managers have the freedom to invest up to 25% in high-yield securities or in longer maturity bonds but, mostly, don’t.

Adviser

AMG (Affiliated Managers Group) advises Continue reading →

T. Rowe Price Global Multi-Sector Bond (PRSNX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund seeks “high income with the potential for some capital appreciation.” Their target is to maximize total return on a risk adjusted basis through a blend of high yield and global fixed income securities. They hope to achieve that end by investing primarily in income-producing instruments including:

  • US, international and emerging country sovereign debt
  • US, international and emerging market corporate debt
  • Mortgage- and asset-backed securities
  • Bank loans
  • Convertible securities and preferred stocks.

The fund may invest entirely in dollar-denominated foreign securities; other than that, the restrictions in the prospectus come down Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Rajiv Jain, GQG Partners Emerging Markets Equity (GQGPX/GQGIX)

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.

Rajiv Jain, with the assistance of a seven-person team, has managed GQG Partners since Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Osterweis Emerging Opportunity Fund (OSTGX)

By David Snowball

On October 1, 2012, Callinan Asset Management launched Emerging Growth Partners, L.P. On November 30, 2016, Osterweis Capital Management re-launched the adopted hedge fund as Osterweis Emerging Opportunity Fund.

Manager James Callinan screens the growth universe, including both IPOs and mature growth companies, for companies and stocks that meet his criteria. He says, in general, that

We want to find an undiscovered or misunderstood company that should have sustainable and open-ended revenue growth of at least 20% for three to five years. Finally, we’re looking for rising margins which may include companies that are losing money and then will break into profitability.

Continue reading →