child walking, kicking leaves

November 1, 2016

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

I walked along today, kicking leaves, marveling at the maples, crunching through my last Golden Russet apple and wondering at the tension between local delight and global despair. Things are good in my life. My classes are full and my students are … hmmm, fascinating in a “bright but so very different from what I recall” way. My son just earned his driver’s license and I bought him a respectable used car. I harvested my first-ever potato crop and the last of my carrots and onions, so roasted root veggies are on the menu this week. I’m happy.

The world beyond mine is less happy. Weather forecasters report that Continue reading →

Concentrated Solutions

By Leigh Walzer

Last month we discussed  Nuance Concentrated Value Fund (NCVLX.) The fund had some big exposures to less liquid names and the strategy was nearing its capacity. At some point the advisor is likely to soft-close the concentrated fund but continue to grow the smaller and more diversified midcap fund.

It is not unusual that fund purveyors offer a version with a higher concentration of the manager’s high-conviction ideas. Sometimes you can spot these derivative funds based on names like Focused or Select Opportunities.

Generally, the concentrated version is Continue reading →

Ten million miles high

By David Snowball

Technically, 10,315,656 miles high.

The IMF reported in October that global debt, government, corporate and individual, is now $152 trillion. (That’s $152 followed by 000,000,000,000.) That’s historically high, both in absolute terms and relative to global GDP. And it’s not limited to slow-growing developed economies; increasingly emerging markets are issuing debt at a record pace.

Folks at the Endowment for Human Development, who have either spiffy calculators or too much free time, calculate that Continue reading →

Priceless – Worth Absolutely Nothing!

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Under this flabby exterior is an enormous lack of character.”

  Oscar Levant

This has proven a rather difficult time to write something and feel that you are either (a) not repeating things you have said before or (b) speaking with the certainty that you are offering some genuine insight that will prove advantageous to our readers as they pursue their investment programs. For those reasons, I will endeavor to be brief, which will probably result in my being more obscure in my comments than usual. I offer thus a number of random thoughts which should Continue reading →

pile of pocket watches

Always Late to the Party, or Understanding Investment Biases

By Robert Cochran

It’s a funny thing, momentum. Some investments can do nothing at all for years, then suddenly produce very strong performance numbers. At the same time, other investments will have years of consistent out-performance and then, seemingly overnight, crash and burn. More often than not, these behaviors happen to individual stocks and sector funds, although some diversified funds fall victim to similar behaviors. Investors themselves often act in ways that lead to their own crashing and burning, causing them to think they are always late to the party, or that the punchbowl was taken away just before they arrived.

Behavioral finance is the study of individual investor Continue reading →

Capital Gains Distributions – Not Looking Too Spooky

By Editor

Halloween is the time of year to start thinking about the impact of capital gains distributions from your mutual funds and ETFs. At, we’ve spent the last month updating our site and building our Free and Pro databases. We’ve already made two passes through over 250 fund firm websites looking for 2016 distribution estimates.

As I think about how this year compares to previous years, I have a house full of high schoolers dressed up for a Halloween party. Some of their costumes match my Continue reading →

Counting on the winners

By David Snowball

There’s a good chance that the next five years will be far more challenging for investors than the past five. It’s rare that a market delivers returns (12% annual returns) greater than its volatility (11% standard deviation). We’ve had five years of extraordinary monetary policy; if the next five years look more ordinary (say, 10 year rates back to their normal 3-4% range), there’s likely to be a “repricing” of assets, possibly dramatic, surely erratic. GMO’s asset class projections, which simply assume a return to normal levels of profits and earnings, say that almost all asset classes are set for negative real returns.

For folks looking for managers well-equipped to handle hostile markets, we used Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Don Porter, DGHM MicroCap Value (DGMMX/DGMIX)

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 or 300 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.

Donald Porter leads the team which manages the Continue reading →

Update: RiverNorth Marketplace Lending Corporation (RMPLX) webcast

By David Snowball

In October, we offered a Launch Alert for RiverNorth’s latest fund, RMPLX. It’s a closed-end interval fund which offers institutional investors access to the quickly evolving marketplace lending sphere. The fund has a million dollar minimum initial investment and, structurally, has some similarities to a hedge fund.

In mid-November, RiverNorth will host a webcast helping investors understand the potential risks, returns and distinctive characteristics of this slice of the market. They’ve done good work with their webcasts before, so folks with the interest and wherewithal might Continue reading →

Update: Litman Gregory Alternative Strategies Fund (MASNX) call

By David Snowball

In a February 2012 Wall Street Journal piece, I nominated MASNX as one of the three most-promising new funds released in 2011.  In normal times, investors might be looking at a moderate stock/bond hybrid for the core of their portfolio.  In extraordinary times, there was a strong argument for looking here as they consider the central building blocks for their strategy. Our profile of the fund that year argued

these really do represent the “A” team in the “alternatives without idiocy” space.  That is, these folks pursue sensible, comprehensible strategies that have worked over time.  Many of their competitors in the “multi-alternative” category pursue bizarre and opaque strategies (“hedge fund index replicant” strategies using derivatives) where the managers mostly say “trust us” and “pay us.”  On whole, this collection is far more reassuring.

Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Twenty new no-load retail funds are slated to go live by year’s end; most will first trade on December 30 so they’ll first able to report full-year results for 2017. The most immediately intriguing are Rajiv Jain’s new GQG Partners Emerging Markets Equity Fund and Osterweis Total Return., though Polen International Growth Fund has some pretty solid lineage, too. Read on!

ACR International Quality Return Fund

ACR International Quality Return Fund will seek is “to protect capital from permanent impairment while providing an absolute return above the Fund’s cost of capital and a relative return above the Fund’s benchmark over a full market cycle.” After such a build-up, it’s a letdown to report that it appears just to be a global stock fund. It will hold about 20 names, expects to keep less than a third in emerging markets and might hold some cash. Not much stands out there. The fund will be managed by Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager changes

By Chip

Among the dozens of manager changes this month, one stands out. Greg McCrickard’s long career at a T. Rowe Price manager has drawn to a close, though he’ll remain a while longer as a mentor of the firm’s young analysts.  McCrickard managed T. Rowe Price Small-Cap Stock Fund  OTCFX for 24 years. He’s succeeded by Frank Alonso who became McCrickard’s associate portfolio manager in 2013 and who did a nice job Price US small cap fund that’s only available to foreign investors. In general, Price handles these transitions better than anyone.

Because bond fund managers, traditionally, had made relatively modest impacts of their funds’ absolute returns, Manager Changes typically highlights changes in equity and hybrid funds. Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

Herewith are notes about the month’s announced changes in the fund industry: closings, openings, name changes, liquidations and more.

Thanks, as ever, to the anonymous and indefatigable Shadow for his yeoman’s work in keeping me, and the members of MFO’s discussion board, current on a swarm of comings and goings.

On October 3, 2016, Henderson Group PLC merged with Janus Capital Group, nominally “a merger of equals.” The Henderson funds will be reorganized into Continue reading →