Objective and strategy
DODLX is seeking a high rate of total return consistent with long-term preservation of capital. They’ll invest in both government and corporate securities, including those of firms domiciled in emerging markets. They begin with a set of macro-level judgments about the global economy, currency fluctuation and political conditions in various regions. The security selection process seems wide-ranging. They’re able to hedge currency, interest rate and other risks.
Dodge & Cox was founded in 1930, by Van Duyn Dodge and E. Morris Cox. The firm, headquartered in San Francisco, launched its first mutual fund (now called Dodge & Cox Balanced) in 1931 then added four additional funds (Stock, Income, International and Global Stock) over the next 85 years. Dodge & Cox manages around $200 billion, of which $160 billion are in their mutual funds. The remainder is in 800+ separate accounts. Their funds are all low-cost, low-turnover, value-conscious and team-managed.
Dana Emery, Diana Strandberg, Thomas Dugan, James Dignan, Adam Rubinson, and Lucinda Johns. They are, collectively, the Global Bond Investment Policy Committee. The fact that the manager bios aren’t mentioned, and then briefly, until page 56 of the prospectus but the SAI lists the brief bio of every investment professional at the firm (down to the assistant treasurer) tells you something about the Dodge culture. In any case, the members have been with D&C for 12 – 31 years and have a combined 116 years with the firm.
Strategy capacity and closure
Unknown, but the firm is prone to large funds. They’re also willing to close those funds and seem to have managed well the balance between performance and assets.
Management’s stake in the fund
Unknown since the fund opened after the reporting data in the SAI. That said, almost every director has a substantial personal investment in almost every fund, and every director (except a recent appointee, who has under $50,000 but has been onboard for just one year) has over $100,000 invested with the firm. Likewise every member of the Investment Committee invests heavily in every D&C; most managers have more than $1 million in each fund. The smallest reported holding is still over $100,000.
December 5, 2012 if you count the predecessor fund, a private partnership, or May 1, 2014 if you date it from conversion to a mutual fund.
$2,500 initial minimum investment, reduced to $1,000 for IRAs.
0.60% on assets of $10.6 million, as of 3/31/2014.
Many people assume that the funds managed by venerable “white shoe” firms are automatically timid. They are not. They are frequently value-conscious, risk-conscious, tax-conscious and expense-conscious. They are frequently very fine. But they are not necessarily timid. Welcome to Dodge & Cox, a firm founded during the Great Depression to help the rich remain rich. They are, by all measures, an exemplary institution. Their funds are all run by low-profile teams of long-tenured professionals and they are inclined to avoid contact with the media. Their decision-making is legitimately collective and their performance is consistently admirable. Here’s the argument for owning what Dodge & Cox sells:
|Name||Ticker||Inception||M* Ranking||M* Analyst Rating||M* Expenses|
|Global Stock||DODWX||2008||Four star||Gold||Low|
|International Stock||DODFX||2001||Four star||Gold||Low|
Here’s the argument against it:
|Assets, in billions||Peer rank in 2008||M* risk||Great Owl or not||MFO Risk Group|
|Balanced||DODBX||15||Bottom 11%||High||No||Above average|
|Global Stock||DODWX||5||n/a||Above average||No||Average|
|International Stock||DODFX||59||Bottom 18%||Above Average to High||No||High|
|Stock||DODGX||56||Bottom 9%||Above Average||No||High|
The sum of the argument is this: D&C is independent. They have perspectives not shared by the vast majority of their competitors. When they encounter what they believe to be a fundamentally good idea, they move decisively on it. Sometimes their decisive moves are premature, and considerable dislocation can result. Dodge & Cox Global Fund started as a private partnership and documents filed with the SEC suggests that the fund had a single shareholder. As a result, the portfolio could be quite finely tuned to the risk tolerance of its investors. The fund’s current portfolio contains 25.4% emerging markets bonds. It has 14% of its money in Latin American bonds (the average global bond fund has 1%) and 5% in African bonds (versus 1%). 59% of the bond is rated by Moody’s as Baa (lower medium-grade bonds) or lower. Those imply a different risk-return profile than you will find in the average global bond fund. Why worry about a global bond fund at all? Four reasons come to mind:
International bonds now represent the world’s largest asset class: about 32% of the total value of the global stock and bond market, up from 19% of the global market in 2000.
The average American investor has very limited exposure to non-U.S. bonds. Vanguard’s analysis (linked below) concludes “ U.S. investors generally have little, if any, exposure to foreign bonds in their portfolios.”
The average American investor with non-U.S. bond exposure is likely exposed to the wrong bonds. Both index funds and timid managers replicate the mistakes embodied in their indexes: they weight their portfolios by the amount of debt issuance rather than by the quality of issuer. What does that mean? It means that most bond indexes (hence most index and closet-index funds) give the largest weighting to whoever issues the greatest volume of debt, rather than to the issuers who are most capable of repaying that debt promptly and in full.
Adding “the right bonds” to your portfolio will fundamentally improve your portfolio’s risk/return profile. A 2014 Vanguard study on the effects of increasing international bond exposure reaches two conclusions: (1) adding unhedged international bonds increases volatility without offsetting increase in returns because it represents a simple currency bet but (2) adding currency-hedged international bond exposure decreases volatility in almost all portfolios. They report:
It is interesting that, once the currency risk is removed through hedging, the least-volatile portfolio is 42% U.S. stocks, 18% international stocks, and 40% international bonds. Further, with bond currency risk negated, the inclusion of international bonds has relatively little effect on the allocation decision regarding international stocks. In other words, a 30% allocation to international stocks within the equity portion of the portfolio (18% divided by 60%) remains optimal for reducing volatility over the period analyzed, regardless of the level of international bond allocation.
This makes it easier for investors to assess the impact of adding international bonds to a portfolio. In addition, we find that hedged international bonds historically have offered consistent risk-reduction benefits: Portfolio volatility decreases with each incremental allocation to international bonds.
The greatest positive effect they found was from the addition of emerging markets bonds.
The odds favor the following statement: DODLX will be a very solid long-term core holding. The managers’ independence from the market, but dependence on D&C’s group culture, will occasionally blow up. If you check your portfolio only once every three-to-five years, you’ll be very satisfied with D&C’s stewardship of your money.
Dodge & Cox Global Bond Fund. For those interested in working through the details of the D&C Global Bond Fund L.L.C., the audited financials are available through the SEC archive. © Mutual Fund Observer, 2014. All rights reserved. The information here reflects publicly available information current at the time of publication. For reprint/e-rights contact us.