August 1, 2011

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The folks in Washington are, for the most part, acting like six-year-olds who missed their nap times.  The New York Fed is quietly warning money market managers to reduce their exposure to European debt.  A downgrade of the federal government’s bond rating seems nearly inevitable. The stock market managed only one three-day set of gains in a month.

In short, it’s summer again.

Grandeur Peak and the road less traveled

GP Advisors logo

A team of managers, led by Robert Gardiner, and executives left Wasatch Advisors at the end of June 2011 to strike out on their own.  In mid July they announced the formation of Grandeur Peak Global Advisors and they filed to launch two mutual funds.  The new company is immediately credible because of the success that Mr. Gardiner and colleague Blake Walker had as Wasatch managers.

Robert Gardiner managed or co-managed Wasatch Microcap (WMICX), Small Cap Value (WMCVX) and Microcap Value (WAMVX, in which I own shares).  In 2007, he took a sort of sabbatical from active management but continued as Director of Research.  During that sabbatical, he reached a couple conclusions: (1) global microcap investing was the world’s most interesting sector and (2) he’d like to manage his own firm.  He returned to active management with the launch of Wasatch Global Opportunities (WAGOX), a global micro-to small-cap fund.  From inception in late 2008 to July 2011, WAGOX turned a $10,000 investment into $23,500 while an investment in its average peer would have led to a $17,000 portfolio.  Put another way, WAGOX earned $13,500 or 92% more than its average peer managed.

Blake Walker co-managed Wasatch International Opportunities (WAIOX) from 2005-2011.  The fund was distinguished by outsized returns (top 10% of its peer group over the past five years, top 1% over the past three), and outsized stakes in emerging markets (nearly 50% of assets) and micro- to small-cap stocks (66% of assets, roughly twice what peer funds have).  In March 2011, Lipper designated WAIOX as the top International Small/Mid-Cap Growth Fund based on consistent (risk-adjusted) return for the five years through 2010. In March 2009, it had received Lipper’s award for best three-year performance.

Wasatch published an interesting paper on the ongoing case for global small and micro-cap investing, “Think International, Think Small” (January 2011).

Gardiner had talked with Wasatch about starting his own firm for a number of years. At age 46, he decided that it was time to pursue that dream. Grandeur Peak’s president, Eric Huefner described the eventual departure of Gardiner & co. as “very friendly,” and he stressed the ongoing ties between the firms.  The fact that Grandeur Peak is one of the most visible mountains in the Wasatch Range, one does get a sense of amity.

According to SEC filings and pending SEC approval, Grandeur Peaks will launch two funds at the beginning of October: Global Opportunities and International Opportunities.  Both will be managed jointed by Messrs. Gardiner and Walker. The short version:

Grandeur Peak Global Opportunities will seek long-term growth by investing, primarily, in a small- and micro-cap global portfolio.  The target universe is stocks valued under $5 billion, though up to one-third of the portfolio might be invested in worthy, larger firms.  Emerging markets exposure will range from 5-50%.   The minimum investment will be $2000, reduced to $1000 for funds with an automatic investment plan.  Expenses will be capped at 1.75% with a 2% redemption fee on shares held for 60 days or less.

Grandeur Peak International Opportunities will seek long-term growth by investing, primarily, in a small- and micro-cap international portfolio.  The target universe is stocks valued under $2.5 billion.  Emerging markets exposure will range from 10-60%.   As with Global, the minimum investment will $2000, reduced to $1000 for funds with an automatic investment plan, and expenses will be capped at 1.75% with a 2% redemption fee on shares held for 60 days or less.

Global’s investment strategies closely parallel Wasatch Global’s.  International differs from its Wasatch counterpart in a couple ways: its target universe has a higher cap ($1 billion for Wasatch, $2.5 billion for Grandeur) and it has a bit more wiggle room on emerging markets exposure (20-50% for Wasatch, 10 – 60% for Grandeur).

A key difference is that Grandeur intends to charge substantially less for their funds.  Both of the new funds will have expenses capped at 1.75%, while the Wasatch funds charge 1.88 and 2.26% for International and Global, respectively. That expense cap represents a substantial and, I’m sure, well considered risk for Grandeur.  Small global funds cost a lot to run.  A fund’s actual expenses are listed in its annual report to shareholders.  There are a couple dozen no-load, retail global funds with small asset bases.  Here are the asset bases and actual expenses for a representative sample of them:

Advisory Research Global Value (ADVWX), $13 million in assets, 5.29% in expenses

Artisan Global Equity (ARTHX), $15 million, 1.5%

Alpine Global Infrastructure (AIFRX ), $12 million , 3.03%

Chou Equity Opportunity (CHOEX), $24 million, 28.6%

Commonwealth Global (CNGLX), $15 million, 3.02%

Encompass (ENCPX), $25 million, 1.45%

Jubak Global Equity (JUBAX), $35 million, 5.43%

Roge Partners (ROGEX), $13.5 million, 2.46%

Unlike many start-ups, Grandeur has chosen to focus initially on the mutual fund market, rather than managing separate accounts or partnerships for high net worth individuals and institutions.

Mr. Gardiner is surely familiar with Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, from which we get the endlessly quoted couplet, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by.”  From microcap growth investing to international microcaps to launching his own firm, he’s traveled many “paths less traveled by.” And he’s done it with consistent success.  I wish him well with the launch of Grandeur Peaks and hope to speak with one or another of the managers after their funds launch in October.

And yet I’m struck by Frost’s warning that his poem was “tricky, very tricky that one.”  Americans uniformly read the poem to say “I took the road less traveled and won as a result.”  In truth, the poem says no such thing and recounts a tale told, many years later, “with a sigh.”

Fund Update: RiverPark Short Term High Yield (RPHYX)

Like Grandeur Peak, RiverPark Advisors grew from the decision of high-profile executives and managers to leave a well-respected mid-sized fund company.  Morty Schaja, president of Baron Asset Management, left with an investment team in 2009 to found RiverPark.  The firm runs two small funds (RiverPark Small Cap Growth RPSFX and Large Cap Growth RPXFX) and advises three other, sub-advised funds.

I profiled (and invested in) RiverPark Short Term High Yield, one of the sub-advised funds, in July.  The short version of the profile is this: RPHYX has the unique and fascinating strategy (investing in called high yield bonds, among other things) that allows it to function as a cash management fund with a yield 400-times greater than the typical money market.  That profile engendered considerable discussion and a number of reader questions.  The key question is whether Cohanzick, the adviser, had the strategy in place during the 2008 meltdown and, if so, how it did.

Mr. Schaja was kind enough to explain that while there wasn’t a stand-alone strategy in 2008, these investments did quite well as part of Cohanzick’s broader portfolios during the turmoil.  He writes?

Unfortunately, the pure separate accounts using this strategy only began in 2009, so we have to look at investments in this strategy that were part of larger accounts (investing the excess cash).   While we can’t predict how the fund may perform in the hypothetical next crisis, we take comfort that in 2008 the securities performed exceedingly well.  As best as we can tell there were some short term negative marks as liquidity dried up, but no defaults.  Therefore, for those investors that were not forced to sell, within weeks and months the securities matured at par.   Therefore, under this hypothetical scenario, even if the Fund’s NAV fell substantially over a few days because markets became illiquid and pricing difficult, we would expect the Fund’s NAV would rebound quickly (over a few months) as securities matured.  If we were lucky enough to receive positive flows into the Fund in such an environment, the Fund could take advantage of short term volatility to realize unusually and unsustainable significantly higher returns.

One reader wondered with RPHYX would act rather like a floating-rate fund, which Mr. Schaja rather doubted:

In an environment where default risk is of primary concern, we would expect the Fund to compare favorably to a floating rate high income fund.   While floating rate funds protect investors from increasing interest rates they are typically invested in securities with longer maturities and therefore inherently greater default risk.   Additionally, the Fund is focused not only on securities with limited duration but where Cohanzick believes there is limited risk of default in the short period until the time in which it believes the securities will either mature or be redeemed.

It is striking to me that during the debt-related turmoil of the last weeks of August, RPHYX’s net asset value never moved: it sold for $9.98 – 10.01 with most of the change accounted for by the fund’s monthly income distribution.  It remains, in my mind, a fascinating option for folks distraught by money market funds taking unseen risks and returning nothing.

Fund Update: Aston/River Road Independent Value

One of my last FundAlarm profiles celebrated the launch of Aston/River Road Independent Value (ARIVX) was “the third incarnation of a splendid, 15-year-old fund.”  Eric Cinnamond, the manager here and formerly of Intrepid Small Cap (ICMAX), has an outstanding record for investing in small and midcap stocks while pursuing an “absolute return” strategy.  He hates losing money and does it rarely.  The bottom line was, and is, this:

Aston / River Road Independent Value is the classic case of getting something for nothing. Investors impressed with Mr. Cinnamond’s 15 year record – high returns with low risk investing in smaller companies – have the opportunity to access his skills with no higher expenses and no higher minimum than they’d pay at Intrepid Small Cap. The far smaller asset base and lack of legacy positions makes ARIVX the more attractive of the two options. And attractive, period.

Mr. Cinnamond wrote at the end of July with a series of updates on his fund.

Performance is outstanding.  The fund is up 8% YTD, through the end of July 2011.  In the same period, his average peer is up 1.3% and ICMAX (his former fund) is up 0.73%. Eric notes that, “The key to performance YTD has been our equity performance and limiting mistakes. Although this is too short of a period to judge a Fund, it’s ideally our ultimate goal in this absolute return strategy — limit mistakes and require an adequate return given the risk of each small cap equity investment.”

The portfolio is half cash, 48% at the end of the second quarter.  Assuming that the return on cash is near-zero, that means that his stocks have returned around 16% so far this year.

Money is steadily flowing in.  He notes, “We are now at $265 million after seven months with good flows and a healthy institutional pipeline.”  He plans to partially close the fund at around $800 million in assets.

The fund is more attractive to advisors than to institutions, though it should be quite attractive to bright individual investors as well.  The problem with institutions, he believes, is that they’re more style-box bound than are individual advisors.  “The absolute return strategy requires flexibility so it doesn’t fit perfectly in the traditional institutional consultant style box.  For most consultants, the Independent Value strategy would not be used as their core small cap allocation as it has above average tracking error.  For the most part, advisors seem to be less concerned about the risk of looking different than a benchmark and are more concerned about protecting their private clients’ capital…so it’s a nice fit.”

On the bigger picture issues, Eric is “hopeful volatility increases in the near future — ultimately creating opportunity.”  He notes that the government’s “printing party” has inflated the earnings of a lot of firms, many of them quite marginal.  He’s concerned with valuation distortions, but comfortable that patience and discipline will, now as ever, see him through.

Cash Isn’t Trash (but it’s also not enough)

ARIVX is not alone in holding huge cash reserves this year, but it is alone in profiting from it. There are 75 retail, no-load funds which were holding at least 40% in cash this year.  ARIVX has the best YTD returns (7.92%) followed by Merk Hard Currency (MERKX) at 7.46% with several dozen cash-heavy funds under water so far this year.  The great bulk of those funds have returned between 1-3% while the (volatile) Total U.S. Market index is up 4% (as of July 29, 2011). Notable cash-heavy funds include

Hussman Strategic Total Return (HSTRX), an always-defensive mix of bonds, foreign currencies, cash and precious-metals exposure.   Five stars, up 2.3% YTD.

Intrepid Small Cap (ICMAX), Mr. Cinnamond’s previous fund, now run by the very competent team that almost handles Intrepid Capital (ICMBX). Five stars, up 0.73%.

Pinnacle Value (PVFIX), John Deysher’s perennially cash-heavy microcap value fund.  Five stars, down 1.7%.

Forester Discovery (INTLX), international sibling to the only equity fund to have made money in 2008.   Four stars, up 2.3%.

Congressional Effect Fund (CEFFX), a three-star freak that goes entirely to cash whenever Congress is in session.  800% portfolio turnover, 2.3% returns.

Harbor Bond (HABDX), a clone of the titanic PIMCO Total Return (PTTRX) fund.  Bill Gross is nervous, having raised cash and cut risk.  Five stars, up 4%.

Morningstar’s Hot on My Heels!

Morningstar ran a couple essays this month that reflect issues that the Observer took up earlier.

Russel Kinnel, Morningstar’s director of mutual fund research, felt the urge to “get really contrarian” and look at four of the smallest funds in the Morningstar 500 (“Four Tiny but Potent Mutual Funds,” 08/01/2011).  They’re described as “being ignored by fund investors, but they’ve really got a lot to like.”  Three of the four have been profiled here, while (WHG Balanced) the fourth has a $100,000 minimum investment.   That’s a bit rich for my budget.

The funds, with links to the Observer’s profiles, are:

Queens Road Small Cap Value (QRSVX):  “Manager Steve Scruggs has done a great job of deep value investing . . . Its return on $10,000 since that time is $25,500 versus $20,100 for the average small-value fund.”

Ariel Focus (ARFFX): “Can Ariel’s emphasis on stable, low-valuation companies work in a focused large-cap fund? I think so. The emphasis on stability has kept volatility roughly in line with other large-blend funds despite the concentration.”

Masters Select Focused Opportunities (MSFOX): “Now, this fund really counts as contrarian. It has a Morningstar rating of 1 star, and its 20-stock portfolio has added up to high risk . . . [They have several excellent sub-advisers who have had a long stretch of poor performance.] That’s not likely to continue, and this fund could well have a bright future.”  My concern when MSFOX launched was that taking six ideas from each of three teams might not get you the same results that you’d get if any of the sub-advisers had the option to construct the whole portfolio.  That still seems about right.

WHG Balanced (WHGBX): “. . . a virtual clone, GAMCO Westwood Balanced (WEBAX), dates back to 1991, and Mark Freeman and Susan Byrne have a strong record over that period. Moreover, it’s conservatively positioned with high-quality stocks and high-quality bonds.”

In Investors Behaving Badly, analyst Shannon Zimmerman fretted about the inability of investors to profit from the “wildly volatile yet in some ways utterly predictable performance” performance of Fidelity Leveraged Company Stock fund (FLVCX). Manager Tom Soviero buys the stock of the kinds of companies which have been forced to issue junk bonds.  Zimmerman notes that the fund has some of the industry’s strongest returns over the decade, but that it’s so wildly volatile that very few investors have held on long enough to benefit: “in all trailing periods of three or more years, [the fund’s investor returns] rank among the peer group’s worst.”  In closing, Zimmerman struck a cautious, balanced note:

As an analyst, I try to square the vicious circle outlined above by giving Soviero credit where it’s due but encouraging prospective buyers, not to beware, but to be aware of the fund’s mandate and its penchant for wild performance swings.

The Observer highlighted the same fund in May 2011, in “Successor to ‘The Worst Best Fund Ever’.”  We were growling about a bunch of fawning articles about “The Decade’s Best Stock Picker,” almost none of which confronted the truth of the matter: wildly volatile funds are a disaster.  Period.  Their excellent returns don’t matter because (1) 90% of their investors flee at the worst possible moment and (2) the remainder eat the resulting tax bill and performance distortions.  We concluded:

People like the idea of high-risk, high-return funds a lot more than they like the reality of them. Almost all behavioral finance research finds the same dang thing about us: we are drawn to shiny, high-return funds just about as powerfully as a mosquito is drawn to a bug-zapper.

And we end up doing just about as well as the mosquito does.

Two Funds and why they’re worth your time

Really worth it.  Every month the Observer profiles two to four funds that we think you really need to know more about.  They fall into two categories:

Most intriguing new funds: good ideas, great managers. These are funds that do not yet have a long track record, but which have other virtues which warrant your attention.  They might come from a great boutique or be offered by a top-tier manager who has struck out on his own.  The “most intriguing new funds” aren’t all worthy of your “gotta buy” list, but all of them are going to be fundamentally intriguing possibilities that warrant some thought.  This month’s two new funds:

T. Rowe Price Global Infrastructure (TRGFX): governments around the world are likely to spend several trillion dollars a year on building or repairing transportation, power and water systems.  Over the past decade, owning either the real assets (that is, owning a pipeline) or stock in the asset’s owners has been consistently profitable.  Price has joined the dozen or so firms which have launched funds to capitalize on those large, predictable investments.  It’s not clear that rushing in, here or in its peers, is called for.

Stars in the shadows: Small funds of exceptional merit. There are thousands of tiny funds (2200 funds under $100 million in assets and many only one-tenth that size) that operate under the radar.  Some intentionally avoid notice because they’re offered by institutional managers as a favor to their customers (Prospector Capital Appreciation and all the FMC funds are examples).  Many simply can’t get their story told: they’re headquartered outside of the financial centers, they’re offered as part of a boutique or as a single stand-alone fund, they don’t have marketing budgets or they’re simply not flashy enough to draw journalists’ attention.  There are, by Morningstar’s count, 75 five-star funds with under $100 million in assets; Morningstar’s analysts cover only eight of them.

The stars are all time-tested funds, many of which have everything except shareholders.

Marathon Value (MVPFX): Marathon is the very archetype of a “star in the shadows.”  It’s an unmarketed, friends-and-family fund that exists to give smaller stakeholders access to the adviser’s stock picking.  The fund has a nearly unparalleled record for excellent risk-managed returns over the decade and it’s certainly worth the attention of folks who know they need stock exposure but who get a bit queasy at the thought. Thanks to the wise and wily Ira Artman for recommending a profile of the fund.

And ten other funds that our readers think are really worth your time

One intriguing thread on the Observer’s discussion board asked, “what fund do you to love more and more over the years“?  While several folks made the obvious point (“don’t love an investment, it can’t love you back”), a number of readers contributed thoughtful and well-argued choices.  The most popular, all-weather funds:

Permanent Portfolio (PRPFX), endorsed by ron, MikeM, rono.  “I’m not sure there has been a better “low risk – great return” fund then PRPFX.”

FPA Crescent (FPACX), Scott, MikeM, “one fund with a terrific long-term track record.”

Oakmark Equity & Income (OAKBX), from ron, cee (The fund just does great year after year and even in the 2008 bear market it only lost 16%. This will be a long-term relationship :)

Matthews Asian Growth & Income (MACSX), DavidS, Scott, PatShuff, “our oldest fund for lower volatility Asian exposure.”  Andrew Foster just left this fund in order to found Seafarer Capital

I’m not sure that it’s just a sign of the times that the common characteristic of these longest-term holdings is the flexibility they accord their managers, their low risk and long-tenured management.

Other interesting nominees included two Fidelity funds (the hybrids Capital & Income FAGIX and Global Balanced FGBLX), Franklin Income (FKINX), Metropolitan West Total Return Bond (MWTRX), Matthews Asia Dividend (MAPIX) and T. Rowe Price Spectrum Income (RPSIX), my own favorite fund-of-Price funds.

Briefly Noted . . .

Joseph Rohm is no longer manager of the T. Rowe Price Africa & Middle East (TRAMX) after leaving T. Rowe on June 30 to relocate to his hometown, Cape Town, South Africa.  It’s hard to know what to make of the move or the fund.  Two reasons:

The management team has shifted several times already.  Rohm was the founding manager, but his stint lasted only ten weeks.  Alderson then stepped in for 18 months, followed by 27 months of Rohm again, and now Alderson.  That’s awfully unusual, especially for Price which values management stability and smooth transitions.

The fund lacks a meaningful peer group or public benchmark.  Measured against diversified emerging markets funds, TRAMX stinks with deep losses in 2011 (through July 29) and a bottom of the heap peer ranking since inception.  The problem is that it’s not a diversified emerging markets fund.   While it would be tempting to measure it against one of the existing Africa ETFs – SPDR S&P Emerging Middle East and Africa (GAF), for instance – those funds invest almost exclusively in a single country, South Africa.  GAF has 90% of its assets in South Africa and virtually 100% in just three countries (South Africa, Egypt and Morocco).

Ed Giltanen, a Price representative, expects a new management team to be in-place within a few months.  Morningstar recommends that folks avoid the fund.  While the long-term case for investing in Africa is undamaged, it’s hard to justify much short term movement in the direction of TRAMX.

On June 30, Guinness Atkinson launched its Renminbi Yuan & Bond Fund.  It invests in Renminbi Yuan-denominated bonds issued by corporations and by the Chinese government.  It may also hold cash, bank deposits, CDs and short-term commercial paper denominated in Renminbi or Yuan. Edmund Harriss will manage the fund.  He also manages three other GA funds: China & Hong Kong Fund, the Asia Focus Fund, and the Asia Pacific Dividend Fund. The China & Hong Kong fund has been around a long time and it’s been a solid but not outstanding performer.  The two newer funds have been modestly unfortunate.  The expense ratio will be 0.90% and there’s a $10,000 minimum investment for regular accounts.  That is reduced to $5000 if you’re already a GA shareholder, or are buying for a retirement or gift account.

I’ve long argued that an emerging-markets balanced fund makes a huge amount of investment sense, but the only option so far has been the closed-end First Trust/Aberdeen Emerging Opportunities (FEO).  I’m pleased to report that Franklin Templeton will launch Templeton Emerging Markets Balanced, likely by October 1.  The fund will been managed by famous guys including Michael Hasenstab and Mark Mobius. “A” shares of the fund will cost 1.53%.

The rush to launch emerging markets bond funds continues with MFS’s planned launch of MFS Emerging Markets Debt Local Currency in September 2011.  The industry has launched, or filed to launch, more than a dozen such funds this year.

Aston closed and liquidated the Aston/New Century Absolute Return ETF (ANENX) in late July.  The three-year-old was a fund of ETFs while its parent, New Century Alternative Strategies (NCHPX) is a very solid, high expense fund of hedge-like mutual funds.

Aston also canned Fortis Investment Management as the subadvisor to Aston/Fortis Real Estate (AARIX). Harrison Street Securities replaced them on the renamed Aston/Harrison Street Real Estate fund.

TCW is in the process of killing off two losing funds.  TCW Large Cap Growth (TGLFX) will merge into TCW Select Equities (TGCNX) and TCW Relative Value Small Cap (TGOIX) merges into TCW Value Opportunities (TGVOX).  In an additional swipe, the Large Cap Growth managers will be dismissed from the team managing TCW Growth (TGGIX).  Owie.

Wells Fargo Advantage Strategic Large Cap Growth (ESGAX) has a new manager: Tom Ognar and his team.  The change is worth noting just because I’ve always liked the manager’s name: it has that “Norse warrior” ring to it.  “I am Ognar the Fierce and I am here to optimize your portfolio.”


New names and new missions

Janus Dynamic Allocation (JAMPX), a consistently mediocre three-year-old, will become more global in fall.  Its name changes to Janus World Allocation and it will switch from a domestic benchmark to the MSCI All Country World index.

Janus Long/Short (JALSX) will become Janus Global Market Neutral on September 30, and will change its benchmark from the S&P500 to a 3-month T-Bill index.

ING Janus Contrarian (IJCAX) fired Janus Capital Management as subadvisor and changed its name to ING Core Growth and Income Portfolio. The fund is currently managed by ING Investment Management, and will merge into ING Growth and Income in early 2012.

Effective Sept. 1, 2011, Invesco Select Real Estate Income (ASRAX) will change its name to Invesco Global Real Estate Income.  The name change is accompanying by prospectus changes allowing a more-global portfolio and a global benchmark.

MFS Sector Rotational (SRFAX) changed its name to MFS Equity Opportunities on August 1, 2011.

DWS Strategic Income (KSTAX) will change its name to DWS Unconstrained Income at the end of September.  “Strategic” is so 2010 . . . this season, everyone is wearing “unconstrained.”

Dreyfus S&P Stars Opportunities (BSOBX) becomes Dreyfus MidCap Core on November 1st.

The FaithShares folks will close and liquidate their entire line of ETFs (the Baptist, Catholic, Christian, Lutheran and Methodist Values ETFs).  The ETFs in question were fine investment vehicles except for two small flaws: (1) poor returns and (2) utterly no investor interest.  FaithShares will then change their name to Exchange Traded Concepts, LLC.  And what will ETC, LLC do?   Invoking the “those who can’t do, consult” dictum, they propose to sell their expertise as ETF providers to other aspiring investment managers.   Their motto: “Launch your own ETF without lifting a finger.”  Yep, that’s the level of commitment I’d like to see in an adviser.

In closing . . .

Special thanks to “Accipter,” a long-time contributor to the FundAlarm and Observer discussion boards and Chip, the Observer’s Technical Director, for putting dozens of hours into programming and testing The Falcon’s Eye.  Currently, when you enter a fund’s ticker symbol into a discussion board comment, our software automatically generates a link to a new window, in which you find the fund’s name and links to a half dozen fund reports.  Falcon’s Eye will provide direct access through a search box; it’ll cover ETFs as well and will include links to the Observer’s own fund profiles.  This has been a monumental project and I’m deeply grateful for their work.  Expect the Eye to debut in the next two weeks.

Thanks, too, to the folks who have used the Observer’s Amazon link.  If you haven’t done so yet, visit the “Support Us” page where you’ll see the Amazon link.  From there, you can bookmark it, set it as your homepage, right-click and play it on your desktop or copy it and share it with your deranged brother-in-law.  In addition, we’ve created the Observer’s Amazon store to replace our book recommendations page.  Click on “Books” to visit it.  The Amazon store brings together our readers’ best ideas for places to learn more about investing and personal finance in general.  We’ll add steadily to the collection, as you find and recommend new “must read” works.

With respect,


This entry was posted in Mutual Fund Commentary on by .

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.