Monthly Archives: January 2024

January 1, 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the January issue of Mutual Fund Observer.

January was named after Janus, the tutelary deity of the year’s first month. As tutelary, he was guardian, patron, and protector. Absent from the Greek pantheon, Janus was the Roman god of beginnings, transitions, and endings. It was the “transitions” part that led Romans to place the two-faced god near entries and passageways, where he oversaw their comings and goings.

Janus, ca 1225-1230, Museum of Ferrara Cathedral, Ferrara, Italy. (He’s holding a jug of wine, which might be a clue to what he sees.). The French cheerfully promote “the temple of Janus” (the thumbnail on our index page) near Autun in Burgundy, while admitting that it has nothing to do with … well, Janus.

This was a strange, liminal time of year in ancient Rome. Traditionally, the old year ended with a solstice festival, and the new year began around the time of spring planting, in March. When exactly the year began was up to the high priest of Rome’s College of Pontiffs, the pontifex maximus. Since politics is the second-oldest profession (you know the first, and I suspect “brewer” was the third), things promptly got messy. Newly elected governments took power on the first day of the new year, which created an irresistible temptation for the pontifex to accelerate the start of the year when parties they favored were coming to power and to delay the new year when disagreeable parties were incoming.

Julius Caesar eventually put his foot down to end that foolishness and ordered the creation of the two new months out of the void between one year and the next. January was a month for taking stock, looking both upstream and down as we stood in the river of time.

This issue was published on January 6, 2024, the third anniversary of the attack on the US Capitol in which 150 police officers were injured, and five eventually died, in defense of the members of Congress meeting there. In the years since, 1240 people have been arrested with that total still ticking up each week. Of those brought to trial, only two have been acquitted. Of those brought to trial before a jury of their peers, none have been acquitted. The New York Times (1/4/2024) published a fascinating, interactive story on the fate of the rioters.

The ongoing attempts to whitewash the history of the attack and the public attempts by some to actually celebrate it are a continuing stain. President Biden’s speech from the Capitol on January 5, 2024, is, in equal measure, outraged by the events of the day and by the subsequent attempts to exalt rioters as “martyrs” and “hostages.” And yet, it ends on a hopeful call:

Deep in the heart of America, burns a flame lit almost 250 years ago of liberty, freedom and equality. This is not the land of kings or dictators or autocrats.

We’re a nation of laws of order, not chaos, of peace, not violence. Here in America, the people rule, through the ballot. And their will prevails. So let’s remember together, we’re one nation under God, indivisible, that today, tomorrow and forever, at our best, we are the United States of America.

God bless you all. May God protect our troops. My God bless those who stand watch over our democracy.

The New York Times warns

And yet, progress requires hope. An optimistic mindset is associated with both good health and personal success because optimists are able to see opportunities and seize them; pessimists see threats and recoil from them.

For those seeking a satisfying answer to the question, “What’s there to be optimistic about, Snowball?” here’s a partial list of 2023’s small victories.

  1. The California drought is over.
  2. The pandemic officially ended on May 5.
  3. Egg prices are back to $2 a dozen as inflation abates. Chip and I pay a bit more for jumbo eggs hand-gathered on Amish farms, but that’s a choice rather than a necessity.
  4. The United States experienced an economic soft landing. It’s only happened once before, I hadn’t anticipated it and it might still unwind but it is profoundly positive for investors. GDP grew 2.6% in 2023, the unemployment rate approaches its pre-pandemic low which was also the lowest in generations. Even better, wage gains have exceeded inflation by about 0.5% this year. And, savers are now actually making money on their savings.
  5. A banking crisis was avoided. Remember Silicon Valley Bank? If not, hooray for us because it could have become the trigger for a bank collapse spiral that didn’t occur.
  6. The gender pay gap hit an all-time low, with women earning 84% of what men do, up from 78% 10 years ago.
  7. The US crime rate is plummeting. (Didn’t see that coming, did you?) The crime rate has been falling (with the exception of the pandemic years 2020-21) throughout this century. By most measures, it was the lowest in 50 years. Murders are down nationally by 12%. Detroit saw a century low in murder. Violent crime in NYC dropped by double digits. Every category of crime, except car theft, is down. And the decrease is accelerating, leading David Graham to describe it as “a peace wave” (The Atlantic, 12/17/2023).
  8. The US Supreme Court upheld America’s strongest animal welfare law and rejected the wackadoodle “independent state legislature” theory.
  9. Medical research works. Umm … “science is real”? Gene editing treatments are here, including one that cures deafness for some kids with genetic hearing loss and another that might cure sickle cell anemia. The mRNA technology is generating a surprising array of vaccines against diseases we thought were unavoidable. Cancer treatments are amazing, with new drugs seeing remission rates of 40% in some “incurable” cancers. A spinal implant is allowing a guy with advanced Parkinson’s to walk again.
  10. Guinea worm diseasedon’t Google it, it’s gross beyond description – is almost eradicated, with only 13 human cases last year.
  11. A cheap and effective vaccine against malaria, the largest killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa, got World Health Organization approval.
  12. Russia’s power, hard and soft, is waning. Ukraine remains an independent country; Finland joined NATO. Moderates prevailed in elections in Poland and the Czech Republic. And Boris Johnson, whose misrule was breathtaking, is gone.
  13. President Biden and Xi Jinping met face to face. It’s much better that they talk than not.
  14. Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has dropped by two-thirds in five years. Brazil promises to halt deforestation entirely by 2030, and deforestation in Colombia has fallen apace. Both governments are finding ways for people to make money in forested regions. New EU regulations that ban the import of products linked to deforestation – from lumber to beef, cocoa, and coffee – will likely strengthen such moves.
  15. The Inflation Reduction Act has spurred $110 billion in corporate investments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support clean energy, and encourage electrification. Some analyses suggest that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 43-48% in a couple of decades, even without further action. One of the criticisms of the IRA is ironic: it’s costing the government vastly more than initially projected, precisely because it has been vastly more attractive to corporations than anyone could have guessed.
  16. Montana youth won a landmark climate case in which the state supreme court ruled that the state constitution’s guarantee of a “clean and healthful environment” was actually real, actionable, and enforceable.
  17. The world may have crossed a solar power tipping point which portends a world in which solar will be the largest source of the world’s energy by 2050. China blew past its solar goals five years early, adding somewhere between 180 and 230 gigawatts last year. Fingers crossed, we might also have reached our peak output of global greenhouse gas emissions, with things beginning to tick down after 2024. US output of such gases has been down substantially since 2007 and continues to fall.
  18. Americans purchased a million EVs in 2023.
  19. Climate-vulnerable nations are receiving survival aid. At the COP28 summit this fall, world governments agreed to launch a modest fund – about $100 billion – for loss and damage caused by climate change. The same summit, over the resistance of OPEC states, affirmed for the first time a “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems.”
  20. Dam removal and American river restoration are picking up, with the first dam on the Klamath River demolished in November 2023 and two more on tap.
  21. After decades of negotiations, the High Seas Treaty was ratified as a tool to protect the world’s oceans that lie outside national boundaries.
  22. The hole in the ozone layer is shrinking, mostly because governments banded together and acted to protect it.
  23. World Wide Fund for Nature announced that scientists had found 380 new species – including a really cool orchid – in just one small region of the Mekong River valley. Separately, but happily, Africa’s endangered white rhino population ticked up.
  24. Americans are traveling again, here and abroad, more frequently than we did before the pandemic. Adventure and mischief to follow (at least if Chip and I hit the road again).

And while you might think of it as silly, I’m cheered by the stories of the first person (Kelvin Kiptum) ever to run a marathon in two hours, the return of the stunningly talented Simone Biles to competition, a 104-year-old woman (Dorothy Hoffner) passed away in her sleep a week after fulfilling her dream to go skydiving, and the fact that Lego is making bricks to help teach Braille to visually-impaired kids. Jimmy and Rosalynn got to celebrate their 77th anniversary together, inseparable even as a parting loomed.

Apparently others got excited about something called “Barbenheimer”?  

Without any question, we face a multitude of challenges. We need to return to operating with a modicum of trust in one another and of faith in our institutions. We need to accept evidence rather than conspiracy; to rise to the challenge of “reality at stake” in our current political moment. We need to adult up if we want to bequeath a better world to our children and to theirs.

But we can.

And we will.

In the January Mutual Fund Observer …

Much of our success as investors is driven by two factors: a good plan and resilience in executing it. Our colleagues Devesh Shah and Lynn Bolin, approach the art of creating such a plan – technically, of asset allocation – from two very different perspectives. Devesh wanders New York’s Central Park, deep in conversation with trusted friends. Lynn wanders through reams of data, deep in conversation with … well, reams of data. Both offer advice on how to navigate the uncertainties of the year.

I share a profile of Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund, a singularly puzzling success story whose record can’t be denied. The fund married a core global equities portfolio (about 50%), Treasuries (about 30%), and futures contracts to craft an all-weather portfolio. Since its inception four years ago, it has returned 11% annually, been in the black all four years (a nearly impossible feat in 2022), and has crushed pretty much every benchmark and peer group available. It’s worth investigating.

Jeff Wrona, whose career stretches back to the halcyon days of the PBHG funds in the ‘90s (he’s one of the guys to score returns over 200%), engages in an Elevator Talk about his new fund, One Rock (ONERX) which embodies both his personal faith and the lessons of his long career. The fund has returned 32% annually since its birth in March 2020, about twice the returns of its Lipper multi-cap growth peer group.

I look at the triumph of ESG investing! Didn’t see that one coming, didya?

Our colleague Charles Boccadoro updates folks on developments in the market and at the MFO Premium fund screener. Charles now has a YouTube channel!

Let me be clear: with Morningstar’s serial decisions to kill both its Basic and Premium fund screeners, leaving behind only the lame and limited version at Morningstar Investor (the discussion on the MFO discussion board is fairly emphatic) and their nebulous promise that a “revamped basic screener is on the roadmap …but we don’t have a concrete timeline” (leading to the question, why kill two functional screeners if you don’t have a replacement?), the MFO Premium screener is the most affordable, most powerful option available for average investors and smaller advisers.

Looking for a small-cap value fund, with a microcap tilt, with much better than average downside capture metrics, and above average 10-year performance? Got it!

Looking for a core large-cap fund that proved its value by skillfully navigating the madcap stretch from 1995 – 2004, from the dot-com madness through the following crash? No problem. Start with Eaton Vance Tax-Managed Growth, Jensen Quality Growth, and Madison Investors. All posted double-digit returns for the decade with way below-average downside.

It takes a bit of effort to learn how to sort through the treasure trove there, but Charles himself will guide you if only you ask! Drop him a line at [email protected].

And The Shadow reveals the industry’s doings, from green flight and fund conversions to our small victories, including the reopening of Virtus KAR Small-Cap Growth Fund.

Thanks in this New Year to …

New Year’s blessings to our indispensable regulars, from the good folks at S&F Investment Advisor in lovely Encino to Wilson, Gregory, William, William, Stephen, Brian, David, and Doug!

Many thanks to Benjamin of Ann Arbor, Thomas from Virginia, Rae from Ohio, Debbi Debbi Debbi! in honor of Nick who we miss a lot, the Nikolai Family, John from my home state of Pennsylvania, Jeroen of Anchorage, Kevin from California, Eric (the MFO team thanks you!), Kathy from Massachusetts, Donald of Seattle, Steven from Colorado, Charles of Indianapolis, Michael from Virginia, Teresa in honor of Dan (I love hearing about the adventures of our graduates), and David from Oregon.

Thanks, too, to friends in the industry who’ve shared books that might broaden our minds – from Sam Zell’s Am I Being Too Subtle? to Chef Wise and Anderson Cooper’s biography of the Astors, one of the century’s richest and most tragic families – and an awesome coffee cake that might broaden our waists. (We’ll be careful, Dan. We promise!)

If you’re so disposed, please do consider contributing to MFO. Of our 18,000 readers, about 1% chip in. Making it 1% plus 1 would be a gain! It’s tax-deductible, it lets us keep the lights on, and it raises the prospect that we might be able to share a year-end gift with the folks who – without compensation – make this all possible.

As ever,

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Asset Allocation and Withdrawal Strategies in Retirement

By Charles Lynn Bolin

I hope everyone had a chance to enjoy the holidays and spend time with family! I wish you a pleasant and prosperous new year.

I was preparing for my typical review of forecasts for the coming year and read an interesting discussion about allocation strategies on the MFO Discussion Board and redirected my efforts. The discussions centered around investment and withdrawal strategies. In this article, I will create three base cases compared to the S&P500 using Portfolio Visualizer in response to the comments. I add context using secular and business cycles for the last ninety-five years. I look briefly at life expectancies. I reviewed my own investment system for setting allocations and closed with a review of trending Lipper Categories using the Mutual Fund Observer MultiScreen Tool.

This article is divided into the following sections:


The discussion on the MFO Discussion Board about allocation strategies mostly in retirement is New Report: All Stock Portfolio Beats Stock and Bond Mix Over Time. I summarize some of the concepts that were in the Discussion by Category and ranked by my preference:

    • Glide path of owning more stocks in the accumulation stage and being more balanced in the retirement stage.
    • Guaranteed income (Pensions, Social Security) allows one to take more investment risk.
    • Yields are high for allocations to bonds should be higher.
    • Equity valuations are high so allocations should be tilted to bonds.
    • Warren Buffet’s allocation of 90% stock (for the wealthy).
    • Investors may be better off investing in half domestic and half international stocks than in a 60/40 stock-to-bond portfolio.
    • Starting withdrawals conservatively and then ramping up later.
    • Basing withdrawal on spending needs.
    • Having higher allocations to stocks and a higher withdrawal rate.
    • Having enough saved for retirement and basing risk on savings.
    • Sequence of return risk.
      • Using buffer assets like cash, a reverse mortgage or whole life policy with cash value.
      • Spend conservatively.
      • Be flexible with spending during market fluctuations.
      • Glide path of being conservative initially in retirement and increasing allocations later in retirement.
    • Annuitizing part of a portfolio to create guaranteed income.
    • The risk of being too conservative.


Key Point: Data showing returns for the past century or more is irrelevant when our investing time horizon is only a fraction of that. We should prepare for maximum life expectancy rather than average life expectancy.

The life expectancy for women at birth is about 79 years. Figure #3 shows how life expectancy changes with age. There is roughly a 32% chance that a 60 year-old-woman will live to age 90. A woman who has lived to age 80 has roughly 45% of living to age 90. We should prepare for maximum life expectancy rather than average life expectancy in order to not outlive our savings.

Figure #3: Life Expectancy at Ages 60, 70, 80, and 90 (Labels = Age)

Source: Author


Key Point: Manage Risk First – Always maintain several years of living expenses in safe investments. This along with guaranteed income, amount of savings, risk tolerance, and long-term market outlook are the main inputs into setting an allocation strategy in retirement. I use a Financial Planner and advocate most people should start using one early in the accumulation stage.

All-Equity Portfolio Beats Bonds In Retirement Plans, New Research Finds describes a study that found across a sample of three dozen countries over 130 years was that a mix of half domestic, half international equities actually beat blended portfolios in both money made and capital preserved. My investing horizon is significantly less than 130 years during which two world wars occurred so I don’t put any relevance into these studies, valid as they may be.

Portfolio Visualizer can be used to find the best-performing strategies from 1985 to 2023. I created three strategies for comparison with the S&P 500. The link to the Portfolio Visualizer Backtest is here. The strategies are 1) 100% US stock (VFINX), 2) 50% US stock (VFINX) and 50% International Stock (VTRIX), 2) 70% US Stock (VFINX) and 30% Bonds (VBMFX), and 3) 50% US stock (VFINX), 25% International Stock (VTRIX), and 25% Bonds (VBMFX). I assumed a 6% annual withdrawal rate.

The results for the thirty-seven-year period are that investing 100% in the S&P 500 had the highest return, but also a maximum drawdown of 68% including a 6% withdrawal rate. The second-best performing strategy is the 70% US Stock (VFINX) and 30% Bonds (VBMFX) portfolio which also had the highest Sortino Ratio or risk-adjusted return. The portfolios are rebalanced annually.

Table #1: Base Cases for Past 37 Years Using Portfolio Visualizer

Source: Author Using Portfolio Visualizer

Figure #1 shows the strategies adjusted for inflation. All four strategies held up well against inflation but only the 100% SP500 strategy beat inflation while 70% stock/30% bond portfolio came close.

Figure #1: Base Cases Portfolio Growth for Past 37 Years Using Portfolio Visualizer

Source: Author Using Portfolio Visualizer

Figure #2 shows annual withdrawals on a nominal basis without inflation adjustments. Overall, the withdrawals would have kept up with inflation, but withdrawals in 2008 would not have kept up a steady stream of inflation-adjusted returns. One alternative withdrawal strategy would be to withdraw less in the years with high returns and reinvest the excess returns. A second approach could be a bucket approach where you withdraw from safer investments in the bad times instead of rebalancing annually.

Figure #2: Nominal Annual Withdrawal for Past 37 Years Using Portfolio Visualizer

Source: Author Using Portfolio Visualizer

While a strategy of withdrawing 6% during the past 37 years would have worked comfortably, the past decade has experienced unprecedented monetary stimulus which has inflated many assets. Valuations and inflation are major factors in determining future returns. The maximum withdrawal rate may depend upon spending needs and desires to pass along an inheritance, but the time-tested 4% withdrawal rate is a fairly safe assumption for historical market conditions.


Key Point: Secular markets can suppress returns for decades. Stocks and bonds usually move in opposite directions reducing sequence of return risk.

For this section, I rely on data provided by Aswath Damodaran at the Stern School of Business at New York University. Since 1928, stocks have returned 9.6% compared to a respectable 6.7% for corporate bonds. Stocks have returned 10.5% since 1987 used in the Portfolio Visualizer example above.

Table #2: Historical Returns Source: Aswath Damodaran at the Stern School of Business at New York University

Source: Aswath Damodaran at the Stern School of Business at New York University

Table #3 shows secular returns. The time period from 1928 to 1962 covered the Depression, World War II, and end of the war over which time stocks returned 8.7%. The next time period, 1962 – 1982 was defined by stagflation with slow growth and high inflation from which stocks only returned 2.1% on an inflation-adjusted basis. The Great Moderation was from 1983 to the mid-2000s, and stocks grew at 12.6% with relatively low inflation. During three of the time periods, on average stocks would have supported a 6% withdrawal rate, however, within each of these periods, a sustained drawdown of more than forty percent posed serious risks.

Table #3: Historical Returns by Secular Markets

Source: Author Using Data from Aswath Damodaran at the Stern School of Business at New York University; Inflation Adjusted Data from DQYDJ; Drawdown from James Picerno at Seeking Alpha

Table #4 contains a more detailed breakdown of time periods. It shows that there are three time periods in which stocks do not outperform bonds and one in which they are about the same. One of the important characteristics of bonds is that their value typically moves in the opposite direction of stocks. One can withdraw from stocks when they outperform and draw from bonds when they outperform.

Table #4: Historical Returns by Notable Market Conditions

Source: Author Using Portfolio Visualizer

To illustrate the benefits of having a balanced portfolio, from 1999 until 2020, the conservative Vanguard Wellesley (VWINX) and moderate Vanguard Wellington (VWELX) have beaten the S&P 500. This illustrates the importance of starting and ending points – sequence of return risk. A high allocation of stocks in 1999 could have impacted savings for the remainder of retirement.

Figure #4: Example 1998 – 2022 Vanguard Wellesley, Wellington, S&P 500

Source: Author Using Portfolio Visualizer

The coming decade is likely to have stock returns below historical trends. Valuations are currently moderately high as I described last month. Nearly 40% of revenues of the S&P 500 come from other countries, and trends of deglobalization will negatively impact some industries and tend to increase inflation. Population growth is slowing which suggests slower economic growth. High debts and deficits suggest interest rates will remain higher for longer. Unwinding Quantitative Easing will probably dampen asset prices. I favor a balanced portfolio that is diversified globally and tilted toward quality bonds.


Talk of a soft landing is still wishful thinking with the yield curve still inverted. Few investors recognized that extreme valuations were wishful thinking prior to the bursting of the technology bubble in 1999 or recognized the danger of “safe” tranches of subprime loans prior to the bursting of the housing bubble. Still, I like to review respectable outlooks for the coming year but put more emphasis on my own nowcast in the next section.

Vanguard released its Economic And Market Outlook For 2024, “Vanguard anticipates that the United States and other developed markets will grapple with mild recessions in coming quarters and that central banks will cut interest rates, likely in the second half of 2024, amid growth challenges and inflation falling toward the banks’ targets.” They also expect higher real interest rates for longer.

Wells Fargo’s December 2023 Outlook includes a mild recession. “…the specifics on whether or not we actually pull off the soft landing or have a mild recession is sort of less important than the fact that it’s just kind of going to be a crummy year.” Senior Economist Tim Quinlan adds that the consumer is holding up the economy but conditions are not as supportive.

Fidelity’s 2024 Outlook is that we have been in a late-cycle business expansion which is supported by a stronger consumer, improving corporate earnings, and easing inflation. They are seeing signs of moderating growth and may see slowly rising delinquencies for auto loans and credit card payments. The Fidelity fixed income managed account team has a base case that we may experience some type of mild recession, or at least a slowdown in growth, over the coming year. The corporate bond market is not pricing in a recession. They believe longer-term fixed income may be an option worth considering.

From my perspective of the economy, USA Facts is an interesting source of unbiased information. In 2021, the average middle-class family earned $59,600 and paid $18,800 in taxes. I think it is important to look at median statistics more so than just averages. The median wage in 2022 was $46,367, down 7% from 2021 when accounting for inflation. Poverty increased to 11.6% of the population in 2021. Over half of US renters and 22% of homeowners spent more than 30% of their income on housing in 2021. Food insecurity affected 1 in 10 households, and 41 million people received SNAP benefits each month of 2022, with an average benefit of $230.39 per recipient. To which, I add that pandemic-era stimulus is expiring.

According to the Associated Press, “The United States experienced a dramatic 12% increase in homelessness to its highest reported level as soaring rents and a decline in coronavirus pandemic assistance combined to put housing out of reach for more Americans.” The number 7 top article from USAFacts’ 10 most-read articles of 2023 is “How many homeless people are in the US? What does the data miss?” The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) counted around 582,000 Americans experiencing homelessness in 2022.


I built my Investment Model based upon the principles discussed in the following books: Nowcasting the Business Cycle by James Picerno, Conquering the Divide by Cornehlsen and Carr, Investing with the Trend by Gregory L. Morris, Ahead of the Curve by Joseph H. Ellis, Probable Outcomes by Ed Easterling, The Era of Uncertainty by Francois Trahan and Katerine Krantz, The Research Driven Investor by Timothy Hayes, Beating the Market 3 Months at a Time by Gerald Appel and Marvin Appel and Morris, and Business Statistics for Competitive Advantage with Excel, (2019) by Cynthia Fraser, among others. I used over a hundred indicators most of which can be downloaded from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis FRED Database that have a high correlation to the stock market six months into the future. I added other indicators that look for secular trends such as valuations and monetary policy.

I built my Investment Model shown in Figure #5 to optimize returns by varying allocations to reflect economic, financial, and market conditions. The model is intended to adjust slowly to market conditions and not to be used for frequent market timing. It works most efficiently with tax advantaged accounts. Minimum and Maximum allocations to stock are variables. Using a minimum allocation to stock of 35% and a maximum of 65% results in an average annual return of 9.0% with an average allocation to stock of 58%. It beat the S&P 500 until 2020 when massive stimulus inflated asset values.

Figure #5: Author’s Investment Model, Stock Allocation >= 35% <=65%

Source: Author

Increasing the minimum allocation to stock to 65% and maximum allocation to 80% does not improve returns significantly because it does not allow sufficient switching between asset classes to reduce allocations to stocks when recession risk is high and to fixed income when yields are high.

Figure #6: Author’s Investment Model, Stock Allocation >= 65% <=85%

Source: Author

Following the guidelines of Warren Buffet’s mentor, Benjamin Graham, of never investing less than 25% to stocks nor more than 75% increases returns to the same as an all-stock portfolio for the past 37 years.

Figure #7: Author’s Investment Model, Stock Allocation >= 25% <=75%

Source: Author

I built the core of the investment model during 2015 to 2017. I was overly conservative during COVID because I did not know how well the model would perform. In hindsight, I would have been better off following it. I use a narrower allocation to stocks than Benjamin Graham’s to take into account the psychological impact of the unknowns.


Table #5 contains the top-performing Lipper Categories for the 635 funds that I currently track. I built a rating system based on momentum and money flow to measure what Lipper Categories and funds are trending with investor support. The first group of funds is short-term, quality fixed income. The Ulcer Index measures the depth and duration of drawdowns over the past two years, while the Martin Ratio measures the risk-adjusted performance over the past two years. The second group is the one that interests me the most and consists mostly of fixed-income funds with intermediate durations. Notice that Global and International funds are included.

Table #5: Trending Lipper Categories – Ulcer & Martin Stats – Two Years

Source: Author Using Mutual Fund Observer


With the evolution of tax laws and savings incentives, like many investors, I own traditional and Roth IRAs and tax-managed accounts for a two-income household. Pensions and Social Security Benefits largely insulate us from market downturns. We follow the bucket approach with two to three years of living expenses in Bucket #1 (tax-efficient municipal money markets and bonds). I believe in both the Vanguard long-term strategy and the Fidelity Business Cycle strategies to investing and use both to manage accounts in Bucket #3 (more risk in Roth IRAs where taxes have been paid) for long-term investments. I use Bucket #2 to adjust to my view of the investment environment. My current allocation is just over 40% to domestic and international stocks and over 40% to intermediate bond funds and ladders. The rest is mostly in ladders of short-term fixed-income and money markets. As these mature, I will decide whether I want to increase my allocation to stocks or bonds with a preference for diversifying internationally.

With regard to the Discussion in the first section, in my opinion, there are three groups that benefit from higher allocations to stocks: 1) those in the accumulation stage with a long-time horizon; 2) those with guaranteed income to cover expenses; and 3) the wealthy with enough in short-term savings that they can withstand more volatility. For the majority of people, the bucket approach, controlling spending, and variable withdrawal rates are appropriate.

For most investors, I advise consulting with a Financial Planner. In the MFO June 2023 newsletter, Helping a Friend Get Started with Financial Planning, I described helping a friend select a Financial Planner. She interviewed one from both Fidelity and Vanguard and is finalizing her selection. I assisted her in setting up a self-directed low-risk, tax-efficient brokerage account investing mostly in municipal bond funds of varying durations. She has benefited well from falling rates.

Celebrating the ongoing triumph of ESG investing

By David Snowball

James Mackintosh, who has always been adamantly skeptical of ESG/SRI/green investing (though less loudly opposed to anti-woke/red investing, perhaps because it’s so marginal), offered a nice analysis (“Green Investors Were Crushed. Now It’s Time to Make Money,”, 12/5/2023) of the declining popularity of ESG investing in 2023 and the challenges facing certain green energy firms.

“Invest according to your political views,” he begins, “and you’re unlikely to make money.”

“[T]he real world is tougher than advocates of ESG—environmental, social and governance—investing claimed,” he huffed.

It’s “The Big Green Misery Machine,” they warn.


One might point out that ESG investing isn’t merely a political gesture. The “G” in ESG, measuring effective corporate governance, especially, is predictive of corporate performance, but he’s never been interested in nuance.

His case highlights the stock price declines of four small “green energy” firms:

One might point out that “green energy firms” are not the core of an ESG-screened portfolio, though they might indeed be included in it. The largest holdings in the ESG-screened version of the S&P 500: Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Invidia, Alphabet, Tesla, UnitedHealth Group, JPMorgan Chase, and Eli Lily.

Here are two more important things to point out.

2024 will be better for ESG funds than was 2023

The point that makes me less irked with him is “investors who bought green stocks probably didn’t think they were making a leveraged bet on Treasuries, but that is what they ended up with.” He argues that rising interest rates impact renewable energy stocks (for which he uses the synonym “green stocks”) in two ways. First, renewable energy projects are 80% debt-funded, and debt is increasingly expensive and hard to acquire. Second, consumers making personal investments in “green” products – heat pumps, solar, electric cars – also use debt, whether credit cards, HELOCs, or second mortgages, to finance them. Higher borrowing costs led to lower demand for those products.

High costs shift people’s attention from the long-term – the need for renewables and global heating – to the short term – the need to cover the bill.

He also argues that much, though not all, of the “greenium” has been squeezed out of the market. Valuations on renewables are way down if not deeply discounted. That makes them more economically rational purchases now than they were two years ago.

In addition, interest rates are likelier to fall than to rise in 2024. Those skilled at examining the Fed’s entrails anticipate three rate cuts of some magnitude, likely starting around mid-year. That’s complemented by a potentially game-changing Treasury Department ruling: profitable green firms can now sell tax credits that they’ve received to other corporations to raise money. The first such sale was just closed by First Solar:

In what both sides are calling the first significant credit transfer of its kind in the solar manufacturing industry, First Solar announced that it entered into two separate Tax Credit Transfer Agreements (TCTAs) in late December to sell $500 million and up to $200 million, respectively, of 2023 Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Advanced Manufacturing Production tax credits to Fiserv, a financial services company.

The Treasury proposed regulations intending to incentivize the production of eligible components within the United States. Qualifying materials include solar and wind energy components, inverters, some battery parts, and applicable critical minerals.

“This is the IRA delivering on its intent, which is to incentivize high-value domestic manufacturing by providing manufacturers with the liquidity they need to reinvest in growth and innovation,” said Mark Widmar, CEO of First Solar. “This agreement establishes an important precedent for the solar industry, confirming the marketability and value of Advanced Manufacturing Production tax credits.” (Renewable Energy World, 1/5/2024)

The short version is that these credits give the manufacturers of solar, wind, inverters, batteries, and critical materials access to a new source of capital that is independent of traditional credit markets and not constrained by prevailing interest rates.

ESG-screened funds did better in 2023 than their non-ESG counterparts.

While investors (and several Red state governments) fled, ESG versions of the S&P 500 and the equal-weight S&P 500 continued their dominance over the non-screened siblings.

  2023 (through 12/26) Three year Five year
Xtrackers S&P 500 ESG 27.39% 11.84 n/a
S&P 500 25.68 10.41 16.31
ESG S&P 500 Equal Weight 13.39 n/a n/a
S&P 500 Equal Weight 13.13 9.39 14.80

S&P Global themselves published this performance comparison, for the period ending 11/30/2023:

  One year Three-year Five-year 10 years
S&P 500 ESG 15.56 11.26 14.15 12.56
S&P 500 13.84 9.76 12.51 11.82

And it’s not just the S&P500. MFO Premium tracks 722 ESG sorts of funds and ETFs. In 2023, 370 of them outperformed their peer groups. More than half of ESG funds outperformed their peers even when conditions turned against them.

Thirty-six ESG funds and ETFs posted returns of 30% or more in 2023, including the two Shariah-screened ETF index funds.

Let’s be clear here: in the worst of times, ESG investing makes investment sense. ESG funds make serious money.

Bottom line

If Mr. Mackintosh is right, the future for ESG investing is far brighter than its recent past. Well-managed ESG funds that use screens intelligently, as a tool for eliminating financial disasters and not just for marketing purposes, are worthwhile additions to any portfolio.

That does not free individual investors from the responsibility of researching their funds carefully. Three years ago every damned marketer in the industry started running around with stickers reading “green” and “responsible” on every failed fund in the company. As it turns out, rotten funds with green stickers remain rotten funds and are dying off. At the same time, there are funds with serious, thoughtful strategies that have a long-term track record of using ESG screens to enhance performance (and, just maybe, doing a tiny bit of good in the process).

My sole green holding, which I’ve discussed in each of my annual portfolio disclosures, is Brown Advisory Sustainable Growth. It gained 38.8% in 2023 and has eked out 16% APR since I first bought it. Really, that does not feel like a “misery machine.” Which is to say, I’m not sure that Mr. Mackintosh’s analysis of ESG investing is quite so clear and profound as might be warranted by inclusion in the world’s premier business paper.

December Brings S&P 500 To All-Time High

By Charles Boccadoro

All fund risk and return metrics, ratings, and analytics were uploaded to MFO Premium Saturday, 30 December, reflecting performance through year-end. We used Refinitiv’s Friday data drop, which was last business day of year, to get an early peek at 2023 calendar year performance.

December is the second full year of The Great Normalization (TGN) market cycle. It also marks the 15th month of this market’s bull run and brings the S&P 500 to an all-time high. The index ended the year up 26.3%. Since the start of the bull run in October 2022, it’s up 35.8%. Here’s a breakout of State Street Sector ETF 2023 performance, which is a Pre-Set Screen in MultiSearch, our main search tool:

The chart below shows the performance growth for each sector ETF since inception. Those are big numbers for SPY! (Although first week of January has been a bit of a whimper.)

The year’s strong performance basically erased all drawdown from the TGN bear market that began in January 2022, as can be seen in the table below, which summaries full-cycle performance data for each cycle dating back to 1926.

Finally, here’s a breakout of the bear and bull markets from each cycle. Hopefully, the current bull is just getting started.

Bonds seem to have turned around finally after a terrible 2022. AGG, iShares Core US Aggregate Bond ETF, rallied 8.2% in the last two months, bringing its yearly return to 5.6%.

All the data from the charts and tables above came from our MFO Premium site. Given that Morningstar recently removed its fund screener from both its free and Investor sites, now is perhaps a good time to try ours … now in its 9th year.

MultiSearch, the site’s main tool, enables searches of some 36,000 ETFs, mutual funds, CEFs, ETNs, Interval Funds, Fund of Funds, and Insurance Funds employing literally hundreds of screening criteria across almost 100 evaluation periods. The subscription price is $120 per year, or $10 per month. Several of our tools remain free to the community, including QuickSearch, Great Owls, Three Alarm, and Dashboard of Profiled Funds. The home page includes various screenshots of the tools and analytics. 

We conducted our year-in-review webinar on Friday, 5 January. It highlights performance of funds across different market segments and attempts to showcase various search features, including additions since our mid-year webinar. Here is a link to the chart deck, which contains background information on all the site’s search tools and analytics. Here’s a link to the video.

If you have not already, be sure to check-out our new YouTube channel @MFOPremium, as described in the MFO December commentary.

Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund (BLNDX / REMIX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund seeks positive absolute returns through an “All-Weather strategy.” The fund holds a global equity portfolio built from regional equity ETFs. The strategy also invests, both long and short, in exchange traded futures contracts from seven sectors: equity indexes, currencies, interest rates, metals, grains, soft commodities, and energy. The managers attempt to participate in medium- to long-term trends in global futures markets and to produce a reasonable return premium in exchange for assuming risk.


Standpoint Asset Management, LLC. Standpoint, with about six employees, is headquartered in Scottsdale. Tom Basso is the chairman of the board for Standpoint Asset Management. He’s been a mentor to Eric Crittenden since the late 1990s. Mr. Basso, a veteran hedge fund manager, is featured alongside other legendary money managers such as Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones in the classic “Market Wizards” series written by Jack Schwager. He is invested in the fund but does not participate in its day-to-day operations. The firm manages this one strategy, has $700 million in AUM (as of December 2023), and has seen strong inflows in 2023.

Because the strategy is managed according to “a comprehensive set of systematic rules” and has little room for human intervention, the firm can effectively manage large amounts of money with few staff.


Eric Crittenden and Shawn Serikov.

Eric Crittenden became Chief Investment Officer and Portfolio Manager in August 2019. He designed the firm’s rules-based investment strategies, oversees the daily investment operation, and conducts research. Before Standpoint, he was Co-CIO and Co-Portfolio Manager for Longboard Asset Management (2011-2018) and Director of Research for Blackstar Funds (2003-2011). He graduated summa cum laude from Wichita State University in 1999 with a BBA in Finance.

Shawn Serikov is the primary software developer and second portfolio manager for the fund. Before becoming Chief Technology Officer and Portfolio Manager (August 2019), he was a Computer Systems Analyst at Longboard Asset Management (2015-2019) and Senior Software Developer and Product Manager at INTL FC Stone LLC (2011-2015). He graduated summa cum laude from Wichita State University in 1999 and holds a Master of Finance degree from the University of Toronto.

They are supported by Mike Striano who’s responsible for risk management, cash management, and compliance, and five other folks in areas such as compliance, software development, client relations, and business operations. He is a 25+ year veteran of the industry, having worked for several high-profile macro-oriented hedge funds including Crabel Capital, Chesapeake Capital, and Fall River Capital.

Strategy capacity and closure

Standpoint reports that “We designed the strategy to handle approximately $10+ billion with no meaningful changes. We designed the fund to have high capacity and have operated it as such since inception. If we are fortunate enough to grow significantly we will likely implement a soft close well short of peak capacity, and eventually a hard close as we further approach peak capacity.”

Management’s stake in the fund

Eric Crittenden has between $500,000 and $1,000,000 invested in the fund, and Shawn Serikov has between $100,000 and 500,000 in the fund.

Opening date

December 30, 2019.

Minimum investment

Investor shares minimum purchase is $2,500. The Institutional minimum is $25,000.

Expense ratio

The fund charges 1.55% (after waivers) on assets of for Investor shares and 1.30% for Institutional shares.


It’s easy to write about a fund that does normal things but tries to do it just a bit better.

It’s hard to write about a fund that tries to do worthwhile things with a strategy that no one else is pursuing: A sui generis strategy, one that’s in a category of its own.

It appears that Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund is and does.

Standpoint positions itself as an “absolute return” strategy; that is, it wants to make reasonable positive returns in all markets. Period. The fund has returned 11.0% annually since inception (through December 2023) and posted gains in 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023.

“We wanted to create a solution that has the flexibility to endure challenging environments while also participating in the upside of bull markets. Our thesis is that by adding a fund like ours to a portfolio of more traditional asset classes like stocks, bonds, and real estate, investors can experience more stability and less sequence risk over time.” Standpoint, 2023

The strategy seems sensible and straightforward. The fund provides exposure to equities (which help in times of economic growth or inflation), fixed income (which buffers deflationary periods and stock market declines), and commodities (which are uncorrelated with the first two, making it possible to minimize the effects both sustained price changes and of an equity market decline). Half of the portfolio is invested in low-cost ETFs to give exposure to the global equity market. The argument is simple: over time, equities make serious money, especially if you don’t overpay for them. The fund holds eight equity ETFs charging between 3 and 7 basis points.

The other half of the portfolio is managed futures positions. Because of the financial requirements of futures investing, about 30% of the portfolio is in T-bills. The futures positions can be in stocks and fixed income, as well as currencies and commodities. “Once a year we pull down the information on all the future contracts in the world, arrayed from most liquid to least liquid. We exclude the untradeable, then select the 75 most liquid in six sectors.” Using a market-following strategy, the futures contracts allow the portfolio’s exposure to equity markets to be increased beyond its 50% base (it peaked at 101%) or decreased to near zero.

The distinction is that the strategy is momentum-based:

the risk-management process in our macro program cuts risk in losing positions. Unlike some other alternative strategies, ours does not “double down” or increase risk in positions because they are moving against us. The philosophy of trend-oriented macro investing is to rotate out of what is not working, and rotate into what is working, in a disciplined manner, with a risk budget enforced each step of the way.

“Decent returns without ever losing investors’ money” seems like an unbearably attractive proposition, so why don’t other funds attempt it?

The short answer is, that some do. We found about 18 funds with “absolute return” in their names and, via a full-text search of the SEC’s Edgar database, a few more with the term in their objective. On the whole, there are a couple dozen contenders out of a field of 12,200 funds and ETFs.

On the whole, they have not performed brilliantly. We used the MFO Premium screener to identify funds with “Absolute Return” in their name. From there, we asked the simple question: did they produce positive absolute returns over reasonable time periods?

In general, they have not. We looked for the funds’ minimum three- and five-year rolling averages; that is, what’s the worst experience that an investor might have had when holding the fund over any three-year (for example, March 2020 – February 2022) or five-year period? Of the 19 funds we identified, 17 have posted at least one negative three-year average. Of the 15 with a record longer than five years, eight have a negative five-year roll on their record.

53% of absolute return funds have at least one five-year (60-month stretch) underwater! 89% have at least one three-year (36-month stretch) underwater.

These comparisons are complicated by the fact that “absolute return” is not recognized as a peer group by firms such as Morningstar and Lipper. Morningstar categorizes Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund as a “macro trading” fund. Lipper calls it a “flexible portfolio,” in the company of such dissimilar funds as RiverPark Strategic Income and FPA Crescent. Morningstar ridicules “flexible portfolios” and recommends that you consider the simple, inflexible option of a 60/40 hybrid fund.

[T]actical allocation funds [are] the quintessential “managed” multi-asset strategy, as the managers frequently adjust the funds’ asset-allocation exposures depending on their market forecasts or other factors. [We calculated their 10-year returns.] One thing that’s quickly evident about these tactical funds is that they were stinkers: The average fund gained a measly 2.3% per year over the decade ended April 30, 2023, roughly a third that of the U.S. 60% stocks/40% bonds mix. (Jeff Ptak, “They Came, They Saw. They Incinerated Half 0f Their Fund’s Potential Returns,”, 5/30/2023).

Standpoint itself tracks its performance against the 20 largest “alternatives” funds in the industry.

That wealth of possible benchmarks – flexible funds, managed futures funds, 60/40 funds, alternatives – underscores a powerful point: to date, Standpoint has outperformed all of them in both returns and risk-adjusted returns.

Lipper, hence MFO, categorizes Standpoint as a “flexible portfolio” fund. Some flexible portfolios are looking for steady returns akin to short-term bonds, some for more nearly equity-like returns. In the group below we compare Standpoint to all flexible funds (column 3) and then only to the subset of flexible funds that have equity-like total returns (column 4, “high return funds”).

The group ranged from 16% APR to -6.5%. The median fund returned 2.6%, with 37 of 160 having lost money over the past three years (12/2020-11/2023)

Three-year comparison, Standpoint versus Lipper peers and peer subset

  Standpoint Flexible portfolio peer ranking Peer ranking among high-return funds
Annualized returns 10.9% #3 out of 160 funds #3 of 12 funds
Standard deviation 6.3% #21 #1
Downside deviation 4.5% 14 1
Down market deviation 3.1% 15 1
Bear market deviation 2.7% 14 2
Maximum drawdown 5.3% 6 1
Sharpe ratio 1.04 2 1
Sortino ratio 1.94 1 1
Martin ratio 4.13 1 1
Ulcer Index 2,1 5 1

Source: MFO Premium data calculations and Lipper global data feed

Here’s how to read that table: the first raw measures total return (10.9% annualize) against its Lipper group (#3 of 160 flexible funds) and the high-return subset (#3 of 12 funds). The next five rows are different measures of volatility, which most investors treat as “risk.” Standpoint is in the top 10% of all flexible funds, including very conservative ones, by that measure and is ranked #1 or #2 in the high-return subset. Finally, the last four rows are measures of risk-adjusted returns; that is, how much volatility you had to absorb relative to the returns you received. Against the full group, Standpoint ranks between #1 (the best) and #5; against the higher-returning funds, it’s #1 across the board.

We can broaden the review by comparing Standpoint with the average flexible fund, and with Morningstar’s preferred completely inflexible fund, the Vanguard Balanced Index. And finally, we can look at it in comparison to other managers using managed futures.

Three-year comparison, Standpoint, Lipper peers, pure 60/40, and managed futures group

  Standpoint Flexible portfolio peers Vanguard Balanced Index Managed futures near-peers
Annualized returns 10.9% 2.4 3.0 8.6
Standard deviation 6.3 11.8 12.6 15.2
Downside deviation 4.5 8.4 9.1 9.4
Down market deviation 3.1 7.8 8.7 5.8
Bear market deviation 2.7 7.4 8.6 3.5
Maximum drawdown -5.3 -18.9 -20.9 -15.9
Sharpe ratio 1.04 0.0 0.6 0.54
Sortino ratio 1.94 0.3 0.6 0.93
Martin ratio 4.13 0.16 0.8 1.41
Ulcer Index 2.1 9.5 10.0 8.1

Source: MFO Premium data calculations and Lipper global data feed

Standpoint has outperformed every plausible peer group in total returns, risk management, and risk-adjusted returns.

Finally, Standpoint itself publishes two comparisons which are updated monthly. The first is a comparison of the 20 largest alternatives funds by asset. Since inception (through 11/30/2023), Standpoint beat all of them in total return and all but one in risk-adjusted returns, as measured by the Sharpe ratio.

The second is a comparison with a pure global equity portfolio.

Source: Standpoint Asset Management, “performance” tab

So far, the fund has matched or outperformed a pure equity portfolio with a fraction of the volatility. The fund did have a 5% down day in November 2021. They explain it this way:

November of 2021, the fund did have a down -5% day. After a nice run in both equities and macro oriented markets like energy and currencies, on the day after Thanksgiving, there were scares about the Omnicron virus which led to our largest positions moving strongly against us on holiday-shortened low-volume day. (The guys note, separately, that oil dropped 13% in a day, grains and currencies got crushed; macro people call it their “Black Friday”.)

From what we could tell, most of our investors were not overly concerned after our -5% day. I believe it’s because they understand that the risk-management process in our macro program cuts risk in losing positions. Unlike some other alternative strategies, ours does not “double down” or increase risk in positions because they are moving against us. The philosophy of trend-oriented macro investing is to rotate out of what is not working, and rotate into what is working, in a disciplined manner, with a risk budget enforced each step of the way.

They conclude with an interesting reflection on having reasonable downside expectations. To date their maximum drawdown has been 9% or so. Their internal models allow that the strategy is susceptible to a worst-case drawdown in the 15-20% range.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, the fund should provide three sources of gain. The equity risk premium, the risk-free gains from T-bills and TIPS, and a risk-transfer premium that comes from providing liquidity to hedgers in the futures markets. That’s allowed them to generate a negative beta in bear markets.

The argument for Standpoint is much like the old argument for managed futures: it can provide absolute positive returns with muted volatility even when the equity markets correct or the fixed-income markets are priced to return less than zero in the immediate future.

“Our edge,” Mr. Crittenden says, “is that we know how to build a good macro program without the traditional 2 & 20 fee structure.” It is designed to be a permanent piece of your portfolio: simple, durable, and resilient.

Life is uncertain, and investing even more so. Standpoint is trying to offer an island of predictability that investors might use to complement and strengthen their core portfolios. With positive absolute returns each year, they have earned a place on any sensible investor’s due diligence list.

Fund website

It’s worth investigating. The fund’s website is pretty low flash but has a fair amount of information and several video interviews.

Elevator Talk: Jeff Wrona, One Rock Fund (ONERX)

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 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. 

One Rock Fund (ONERX) launched on March 6, 2020, the only public offering by – and only client of – Wrona Investment Management of Pinehurst, NC.  The firm was founded by, and the fund is managed by, Jeff Wrona.

If Jeff’s name is familiar to you, you’ve either got a long record as an investor and a good memory, or you’re a market historian.

Jeff was last prominent in the 1990s as one of the guys who most effectively exploited the dot-com bubble as a manager, first, for Munder (1990-97) and then for PBHG (1997-2001).  In the latter post, he was responsible for managing over $10 billion in assets in funds such as PBHG Technology & Communications and PBHG Core Growth funds. He, more than most, experienced both the era’s highs (up 240% one year) and lows (down 44% another).

For personal reasons, he left PBHG and the world of professional investment management in 2001. Life got rocky, then life got better. After an 18-year hiatus, during which he invested his family money, he launched One Rock Fund. The fund’s name reflects his profound personal religious conviction. The fund’s homepage begins with the reflection, “I hope ONE ROCK Fund will be a blessing to others as we have been blessed.”

One Rock invests in the stocks of corporations with “business momentum.” That’s entirely distinct from stock momentum; he’s looking for accelerating companies. Here’s a description of the investment process:

a bottom-up, fundamental research approach to each company and industry with a technical analysis overlay to gain a better understanding of investor sentiment and potential future risks. The Adviser expects that many, or possibly all, of these companies, will be in the technology sector and exhibit strong growth in revenues, earnings, and/or cash flows, although significant investments may also be made in other sectors.

The fund also excludes companies “involved in the production or wholesale distribution of alcohol, tobacco, vaping equipment, gambling equipment, gambling enterprises, pornography, or which provide products or services that do not allow the right to life at all stages.” (The use of index futures might indirectly expose investors to those industries.) The portfolio currently holds about 50 stocks, with an exceptionally high turnover ratio that might make it most appropriate for a tax-sheltered account. Jeff uses futures and options to fine-tune both market exposure and to hedge position risk. Those derivatives helped a bit in 2022 and held back performance a bit in 2023.

How have those 30 years of experience manifested themselves in an investor’s portfolio? Jeff and I chatted about that very question in December 2023.

My wife keeps chiding me that I’m the worst marketer for my own fund that I can be. Still, I’ll try to explain how that experience serves as a differentiator.

2022 – remember, I’ve been investing for over 30 years – out of all those years, last year was one of my best years ever in terms of decision-making and actions taken. 2008 helped me tremendously because I lived through that history, I didn’t just read about it in an MBA class. The first five days of 2022 and the end of 2021 felt a lot like the first 5 days of 2008 and the end of 2007. In the end, for aggressive growth stocks, 2022 was worse than 2008. I was called to remembrance, got defensive. Raised some cash. Got out of our long futures. Layered out short call options. We were net 70% invested in parts of 2022.

A lot of our peers were down 50 or 60% last year. With a 60% drawdown, they need a 150% return to get back to zero. We drew down 42% and needed 72.5% to make it up. As of today, we’re there. Not a lot of the fundamentals changed between 2022 and 2023; the difference (between a 40% loss and a 70% gain) is sentiment triggered by interest rate fears.

Since inception, the fund has returned an average of 29.4% annually (through 11/30/2023, per MFO Premium). That is more than double the return of its Lipper multi-cap growth peers.

Comparison of Lifetime Performance (04/2020 – 11/2023)

  APR Max drawdown Standard dev Downside dev Ulcer Index Sharpe Ratio Sortino Ratio Martin Ratio
One Rock 29.4 -42.0 32.2 18.9 20.5 0.86 1.46 1.35
Multi-Cap Growth Ave. 14.6 -37.1 23.8 14.6 19.6 0.57 0.96 0.87

The fund is 3.7 years old, so the maximum timeframe for a detailed comparison at MFO Premium between One Rock and its 124 fund and ETF peers is the past three years. In that time, One Rock has returned 11.2% annually, fourth among all 125 multi-cap growth funds. Its volatility is substantially higher than its peers (32% versus 22%) but its returns have been so much stronger that its risk-adjusted returns, measured by its Sharpe ratio, dwarves its peer average (0.28 vs -0.04) and place it in the top 20 of all multi-cap growth funds.

The more famous of the deeply faithful tech investors is Cathie Woods, whose ARK Investments were named after the Ark of the Covenant, and whose ARK Innovation ETF is roughly 6oo times larger than One Rock. If one had committed $10,000 to ARKK on the day ONERX launched, your portfolio today would be worth $10,313 (though your antacid bill would be substantial). If you had committed the same $10,000 to ONERX, you’d be sitting on $26,936 today, well over double with far fewer thrills.

Source:, 12/29/2023

It is, in short, a very strong performer. Nonetheless, there are already 125 other funds fishing the same waters, leading to the question “Did we need fund #126?” Does One Rock really offer an opportunity not found elsewhere? Rather than guess, we put the question to Mr. Wrona: “If you happened to find yourself in an elevator with a curious if slightly skeptical potential investor, how would you answer their reasonable question, ‘Why would I want to think about One Rock?’” Here are his 242 words in response:

Ideally, who would you want managing your money? 

You’d want someone with a long history of investing in the stock market, like 30+ years.

You’d choose someone who is available and acts when stocks move the most, which is when new information comes out, including corporate earnings. Almost all of this happens before the market opens at 9:30 am, or after the market closes at 4:00 pm EST. 

You’d want someone who is nimble and can move in and out of stocks quickly.  So ideally, someone who is managing a smaller amount of money rather than larger, because someone managing $10 billion will most likely not perform as well as that same person managing $100 million, because they can’t move the money as fast.  Larger assets are usually a hindrance to stronger results. 

You definitely want someone who has all their financial investments right alongside yours, and so they show through their actions, what they believe to be the best possible investment.  

Most importantly, if you’re a follower of Jesus, the Christ, you want the person investing your money to be like minded; someone who believes in the One so unmovable and so unshakable that when times of turmoil come, and they will, that they are unwavering. 

And finally, all this would have to be evident through a strong track record of financial success.   One Rock Fund, and the person who manages it, has all the things you’re looking for. Here’s my business card.

One Rock Fund (ONERX) has a $2,000 minimum initial investment. It is available only through direct purchase from the adviser. The fund charges 1.75% on assets of about $15 million. (Yes, that’s not Walmart pricing but with a 1% management fee Mr. Wrona is not getting rich running this fund for you.) The fund has seen small, consistent inflows across the years. One of the charms of a boutique fund is that Mr. Wrona sees each purchase and redemption request and, at the end of 2022 when investors were anxious, took time to call some of his investors to talk with them about their concerns. Some, he reports, chose to stay (and enjoyed a gain of over 70% in 2023) while some still chose to go. 

The fund’s homepage is modest but easy to navigate.

Insane markets, anxious investors, sane asset allocation

By Devesh Shah

A winter walk around the Central Park Reservoir

My friend “W” and I have gotten into a good habit of taking an hour-long walk around the Central Park Reservoir every few months. An hour’s walk is a perfect amount of time when two people speak the same language, are willing to not pretend or live in a fantasy world, are willing to engage in a two-way honest communication, and then want to return to their lives.

W is one of the sharpest minds on Wall Street. For more than twenty years, he has been applying macroeconomic data and central bank policy to asset markets to triangulate the best tactical medium-term investment opportunities. 

Given everything we know, have lived, and learnt in the financial markets, our mutual quest is simple – how to become better investors of our own portfolios.

Everything is up for discussion. Active or Passive. Domestic or International. Index or Single Stocks. Stocks or Bonds. Short-dated bonds or long bonds. Options trading or no options.

Our most recent walk was in the middle of December, just a few weeks ago. Central Park can get crowded near the southern edge or near Bethesda Fountain. But in the north, especially around the bridle path surrounding the reservoir, tourists leave the locals alone on weekday mornings. The runners, walkers, and dogs are left to their own devices to enjoy the leafless Yoshino and Kwanzan cherry blossom trees which in due time will beautifully announce the arrival of spring.

Winter keeps us honest. With honesty in mind, we switch our talk to markets.

Taking stock of market returns for 2023 (and 2022): Tougher than it appears.

“You must be in a delightful mood with the recent rallies in stocks and bonds,” suggested W.

“I won’t lie,” I admit. “2023 is the kind of year where professionals have been burnt but those who had faith in asset markets, in diversification, and in keeping it simple, benefitted. I would not have predicted the stock market to bounce back as hard as it did, or the bond market to turn around the way it did. I didn’t make great calls. Passive investing worked in a way I hadn’t expected it to.”

I always try to outsmart markets, but with each year that goes by, I feel less smart. Having the discipline to be invested in assets through thick and thin has been the best self-help.

I add, “But it’s important to be honest. Any returns from 2023 must be seen in combination with 2022.”

I quote the numbers to the 3rd week of December. An investor with $1,000 in a 60/40 portfolio, where 60 is the US Total Stock Market and 40 is the US Total Bond Market is up 17% this year. Sounds great until one looks at the combined 2-year return. The investor would have a net of $972.50 assuming quarterly rebalancing. That is, the investor is still not back to par.

A 40 Stocks / 60 Bonds portfolio, which would traditionally be seen as lower market risk, fared worse. $1000 in the beginning of 2022 would be $952.70 now, or down a cumulative 4.7% for the two years.

A portfolio that included more diversification, featuring international developed markets and emerging markets had the worst of the three portfolio results. An endowment-type model portfolio invested in public passive ETFs is down more than 10% for the two years combined. $1000 would be $897.

“It’s humbling. In the euphoria of 2023, we seem to have forgotten that most academic book corner portfolios are DOWN over a 2-year period,” I submit. I understand that most people are not religious about the percentage and mixes, but these are common numbers to use as a starting point.

“And that is before including any effects of inflation on money erosion,” adds W. “The 10% increase in the general level of prices in the 2-year period makes portfolio values that much worse.”

“No one wants to adjust their wealth for inflation,” I protest. “It’s just not done. Do you want me to lose all sense of self-respect as an investor?”

To this humility, we add one more factor – the impact of withdrawals. Assuming a 4% withdrawal rate per year, the nominal values of the $1000 portfolio for a 2-year period would be $906, $888, and $837 respectively.

The last 90 days feel like a vindication for the diversified, passive investor. But the two-year combined reality adjusting for nominal returns, inflation, and withdrawals reminds me of a proverb my grandma often used: Five notes of twenties don’t make a hundred. That is, just because you earned a hundred dollars doesn’t mean that you’ve got a hundred dollars of money to play with: groceries, taxes, mortgages, utilities, and doe-eyed children who’ve really got to have a new outfit for the school dance all eat away at it.

Digression: 40 years of investment wisdom from “MO”

A quick digression: It’s easy to rain on the parade of poor investment returns. I asked my friend MO, who has been retired for 40 years if the last two years have changed his mind. The answer was NO.

MO texted back, “Was just telling my grandson this morning that sticking to the same basic guidelines makes average investors like me look good: start as young as possible, stick to a certain asset allocation, have broad diversification, tax efficiencies, and low commissions (all of which you get with the S&P Total Market). Then sit back and enjoy the effects of compounding in an extraordinary 40-year bull market for stocks, bonds, and residential real estate. The previous 40 years were not as good as the last 40, so there is an element of luck involved.”

MO continued, “Big problem – young people have perhaps less wind on their back and this passive style of investing is boring, boring, boring, especially to young people.”

Warren Buffett might also weigh in here, as he did in his 2020 Shareholder Letter to Berkshire-Hathaway investors: “Despite some severe interruptions, our country’s economic progress has been breathtaking. Our unwavering conclusion: Never bet against America.”  Nothing I write can beat their guidance for long-term, faithful, investors. If we can digest the boredom and enjoy the years ahead, the work is done. No better fund or finding the next trade is needed.

For those who prefer more heartburn, continue reading ahead.

Bond investing: Hopes for sanity?

“Tell me, W, what are good reasons to continue being a diversified long-only investor,” I ask provocatively. “By October of this year, both stocks and bonds were looking ugly. Had the year ended in October, would we be calling the death of diversified portfolios.”

W takes me through the case for sanity. The last two years were different. COVID-related money printing or supply-side shocks created behaviors in employment and inflation which surprised the Federal Reserve (the Fed), which was behind the curve for a large part of the last two years. It had to catch up by getting ahead of the markets. And in doing so, it had to show hawkish credentials. This hurt bonds badly. When stocks tanked, bonds could not provide their traditional help and a 60/40 portfolio looked bad.

W continued, “But now, this Fed vol (a phrase to describe the volatility created by the actions of the Federal Reserve itself) should be in the past tense. Going forward, bonds can once again start reacting to economic growth and recession risks, as opposed to Fed mistakes. In such a case, if earnings decline and stocks go down, bonds can be helpful to the portfolio. Asset allocation and portfolio diversification benefits, which had temporarily been halted, have a greater chance of working.”

We stop to admire a London Planetree stripped to its bare bones and are glad to be spectators to the beauty of this giant at this time of the year. The tree is faultless in its structure. I still have many questions about US bonds, which don’t look as faultless to me.

I rebutted, “All year long we heard warnings from demonstrably smart guys. Howard Marks wrote Sea Change (December 2022) and Further Thoughts on Sea Change (October 2023), which holds that the good times in fixed income are done. Ray Dalio noted that the USA is getting to an “inflection point” (November 2023) where we become derailed because we are borrowing just to pay for our borrowed money; that is, fund interest payments on a quickly rising national debt. Robert Rubin argued in a Goldman Sachs exchange (October 2023) that the greatest risk is the lack of political will in Washington DC; that is, there aren’t enough adults left to do the hard, grown-up things we need. Jim Grant of the Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, in a Fortune interview (December 2023, with a paywall) that higher inflation is permanent and fumbling attempts to control it are compounded by lags and variable and uncertain impacts. Should we forget about all these warnings now and line up to buy bonds again?”

W is a balanced mind and less incendiary than me.

“If you have Biden, and he doesn’t do anything stupid, the propensity of the markets to digest US debt will be higher. But if you get a Trump comeback, there could be a problem. Also, there is an argument that the bond market from time to time gets too excited about the Fed cutting interest rates and the end of 2023 seems to be one of those moments with bonds being overly optimistic once again.”

W asks me if I have still been holding my 30-year TIPS. I share that I had to eat some humble pie.

“Most of 2022, I was in T-bills. That helped when US Treasuries went down last year. In the spring of 2023, I bought some NY Municipal bonds, which are no home run.”

Municipal bonds don’t make bond investors money. They provide tax-free income to those who care for such things. Residents in high state-tax jurisdictions might benefit from munis but one needs to pick them carefully with the help of a good bond broker.

“In December 2022, I purchased some long-dated TIPS when they were aggressively being sold. I was early and had some quick wins. But as the year progressed, the selloff in TIPS was greater than I was willing to digest. I rebalanced out of TIPS into three assets – short-term T-Bills, short duration high yield credit funds, and US Equities.

I didn’t expect the bond market to be as volatile and lost for anchors. When “portfolio hedges” trade this poorly, I realize I stretched myself too far. I am okay with nominal losses on stocks but don’t have the same sympathy for bonds. It’s something I need to think about more and fine-tune my expectations for the future.”

I pointed out that while we don’t know if Berkshire Hathaway bought bonds in the fourth quarter of 2023, we do know that he had $160 Billion of Treasury Bills at the end of September. Maybe if it’s good enough for Mr. Buffett, it’s good enough for me to be in short maturity fixed income instruments.

W’s two tools for asset allocators: Patience and Anchors

At this point, W reminds me of the two important tools that a long-only asset allocator must recognize and sometimes use to their advantage.

“First, as you have learnt,” points out W, “Long only investing means living through volatility because you never know when or where the positive returns are going to come. We only know the portfolio works over long periods. The smartest people fight over the short-term movements and their track records year to year are highly questionable.”

“Second, it’s important to have anchors. That is, we need to know when an asset class is irrationally cheap and when it is irrationally expensive. One percent yields on 30-year US government bonds in 2020-2021 was wrong. You were not supposed to hold bonds then. The journey from 1% to 5% might not be trivial, which was the challenge this time around. You need to use those anchors to shape allocations.

It’s not clear that most passive, long-only investors have these anchors. If you know you are not good with anchors, then you must live through the volatility. There is no other answer.”

In some ways, we have solved our way back to MO’s 40 years of investing wisdom. Live with the volatility.  

International equity weights and performance deficits

W himself has experienced a different kind of investment challenge. While he avoided bonds all through the turmoil and was thoughtfully invested in stocks and T-bills, increasing his stock allocations in early October, he has been over-invested in international and emerging markets. Not having enough US equity exposure cost him a performance return in 2023.

I’ve now spent enough time with Charles B’s MFO Premium fund engine and talked to suave international fund managers like Andrew Foster, Lewis Kaufman, Amit Wadhwaney, and Rakesh Bordia to know that the Original Sin lies in believing what works in the US (with passive equity ETFs) works abroad. It does not.

“International and EM investing is done much better through active managers,” I propose, with great conviction. “Trillions of dollars are mistakenly invested in passive indices abroad.”

The passive indices internationally were built for liquidity, not performance. One big reason why international passive does not work is because there are fewer ways to hold corporate management accountable the way active investors do in the US.

The morass that most of Europe seems to be unable to get out of weighs down heavily on developed international. China has weighed down on EM. Skilled managers can traverse these lanes better than passive funds can.

There is a big behavioral finance dilemma here. After decades of trying to pick stock and find market-beating active managers in the US, investors realized it could not be done. The S&P 500 (or the US Total Stock Market) was beating almost all the managers. Investors learnt their lesson, withdrew money from active, and plowed into passive. They did this in the US and international markets. However, the data never supported that passive investing worked outside the US. Solid active fund managers are beating the passive benchmarks outside the US, and doing this year after year, leaving passive investors abroad with a performance deficit.

As we cross the tennis courts and approach Central Park West, we have about half a mile remaining. The last half mile is about the US equity markets. This is supposed to be the happy part of the walk, where we share how thankful we are for being US equity investors. We are both beneficiaries of having investible savings, knowing how to invest, investing those proceeds in US equities, and watching the tree grow. The idea that the bond market might turn the page and be more benign going forward adds to the scent of pinecones on the ground.  

Nervous concerns about the state of the markets

But I have concerns and I must share them with a sympathetic friend.

I worry that we have reached an era where the financial investor swings too violently from narrative to narrative, that common sense as a weapon alone is too blunt for today’s markets, and while the VIX is at the ground floor level, the level of volatility of asset portfolios has increased tremendously from year to year.

“Think about crypto. We know it lives on faith alone. And I am bewildered to find so many smart people running crypto schemes. Why? Think about the greenwashing, where ESG became so important that everyone needed to be a friend of ESG. And then when ESG went out of fashion, they couldn’t wait to un-friend ESG. How is humanity moving so quickly, and so greatly in magnitude from one narrative to the opposite of that narrative? Why do I need to adjust myself to that narrative each time? And if I don’t, am I dumb? Or am I dumb if I follow every side of every narrative?”

I realize I am venting. But I need to be honest that this is not easy. I cannot always stretch my imagination to fit whatever narrative is being flung at me.

“The easiest answer,” suggests W, “is what we already know. Stick to the passive index ETFs and live with the boring. You don’t need to have more than 8-10% portfolio returns a year unless you want to fly to Mars or buy a social media company.”

My solution: Increase Berkshire Hathaway holdings

I offer my humble solution to the puzzle.

Indexing is fine, but with every day that goes by, I find myself increasing my portfolio weights in Berkshire Hathaway. Knowing my tendencies, I am probably too early. In any case, Berkshire offers a world-class portfolio of public and private businesses, common sense investing, low leverage, confidence to ignore the bullshit market trends of the season, a ton of cash that might be helpful in a stock-market crash, no fees, no dividends, no distributions, largest shareholder’s equity of any American company, and a bench of managers and Board Directors that are invested in keeping Berkshire working for its shareholders. At close to 1.35x the estimated Price to the Book Value of the company, this does not seem like a very expensive price to pay for common sense.

In a world that on some days feels like it has gone nuts, I like the warmth of the Berkshire Hathaway blanket. I don’t need to become wealthy fast. I need to know my money is in good hands.

In Conclusion

As the year has officially ended, W and I have had a chance to look at and compare our portfolio returns for the year. We have simultaneously realized that long-term, passive investing, is not a natural forte of Wall Streeters with professional training in tactical investments. We are better at protecting our investments in down markets, avoiding the tail risk. We are not as good at the blind faith demanded by asset allocation. My mother used to tell me, “The day starts when the eyes open.”

We have come a long way on this path to becoming better personal investors and maybe one day our eyes will be fully open to seeing the magic and beauty in “boring, boring, boring”.

Briefly Noted…

By TheShadow


The merger of the BlackRock Capital Appreciation Fund into the BlackRock Large Cap Focus Growth Fund, originally scheduled to occur by the end of 2023, has been delayed.

Several iShare ETFs, iShares Expanded Tech Sector ETF, iShares Expanded Tech- Software Sector ETF, iShares U.S. Pharmaceuticals ETF, iShares U.S. Healthcare Providers ETF, iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF, iShares U.S. Financial Services ETF, iShares U.S. Healthcare ETF, iShares U.S. Consumer Staples ETF, iShares U.S. Transportation ETF. and iShares Semiconductor ETF will undergo a stock split. Shares of the iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF will begin trading on a split-adjusted basis on February 22, 2024. Shares of each Fund other than the iShares Core S&P Mid-Cap ETF will begin trading on a split-adjusted basis on March 7, 2024.

Matthews Asia International has registered two new ETFs, the Matthews Emerging Markets Discovery Active ETF and the Matthews China Discovery Active ETF. The total annual fund operating expenses after fee waiver are .89% for both newly registered ETFs.

The Neuberger Berman Short Duration Bond Fund will be reorganized into an ETF having the same portfolio managers and managed in a substantially similar manner as the mutual fund.  The conversion will occur during the late second or early third quarter of 2024.  

The previously announced liquidation of Virtus Stone Harbor Strategic Income Fund is now expected to take place on or about January 30, 2024.

Briefly Noted . . .

It’s also sad when the name on the door gets sort of scraped off. Effective January 1, 2024, Evan Fox will begin serving as a co-portfolio manager of the Pzena Mid Cap Value Fund. Also effective January 1, 2024, Richard Pzena will no longer be a portfolio manager of the Fund.

CLOSINGS (and related inconveniences)

BBH Select Series – Large Cap Fund liquidated its Retail share class on December 21, 2023. Retail shares were rolled into the Institutional share class. New would-be retail investors would need to ante up the $10,000 minimum for an institutional purchase. It’s a four-star fund with about a half billion in assets, presumably mostly in the institutional shares.


Effective January 29, 2024, the four-star Virtus KAR Small-Cap Growth Fund will be open to new investors. The fund has a splendid long-term record, which led it to close five years ago. Its performance lagged its peers in 2021 and 2022, but it still sports 2% ten-year returns. The fund has an expense ratio of 1.33%. The fund is subadvised by Kayne Anderson Rudnick Investment Management portfolio managers, Todd Beiley and Jon K. Christensen.


Green Flight continues: on February 29, 2024, abrn does another somersault. The abrdn U.S. Sustainable Leaders Smaller Companies Fund will become the abrdn Focused U.S. Small Cap Equity Fund. This will be the fund’s fourth rebranding:

  • 2001-2017 Aberdeen Long-Short Equity Fund
  • 2017-2020 Aberdeen Focused US Equity Fund
  • 2020-2023 Aberdeen (then abrdn) US Sustainable Leaders Small Companies
  • 2024- ??? abrdn Focused US Small Cap Equity Fund

The newest manifestation of the fund will strip the “sustainability” mandate. On the same day, abrdn International Sustainable Leaders Fund becomes abrdn Emerging Markets Dividend Fund. The fund started life as Julius Baer International, then Artio International, became Aberdeen Select International Equity in 2013, became “Sustainable” when that was trendy (2020) and is transitioning to EM dividends because … well, why not?

Eaton Vance Short Duration Strategic Income Fund is changing its name to Eaton Vance Strategic Income Fund

Effective on or about February 12, 2024, Hartford Short Duration ETF becomes the Hartford AAA CLO ETF. This is one of those complete gut jobs in which the name, investment objective, principal investment strategy, portfolio management team, performance benchmark, and management fee all change. What remains of the old fund? Hmmm … the ticker symbol?


1919 Variable Socially Responsive Balanced Fund is expected to cease operations and liquidate on or about March 1, 2024.

AMG GW&K Emerging Markets Equity Fund and AMG GW&K Emerging Wealth Equity Fund, also an emerging markets fund, will be liquidated on February 9, 2024. AMG GW&K Global Allocation Fund and AMG River Road International Value Equity Fund, not emerging markets funds die with them. The latter fund was a domestic long-short equity fund until August 2021.

Armor US Equity Index ETF ended on December 29, 2023.

BNY Mellon International Equity Income Fund will be liquidated on or about February 9, 2024.

C Worldwide International Equities fund disappeared on the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2023.

Corbett Road Tactical Opportunity ETF was liquidated on December 29, 2023.

Franklin Mutual Financial Services Fund will merge into Franklin Mutual Global Discovery Fund on or about April 26, 2024, but the move “may be delayed if unforeseen circumstances arise.”

Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta Paris-Aligned Climate U.S. Large Cap Equity ETF will be liquidated on January 12, 2024, as a result of the board’s consideration of “a number of factors.” Which ones? Didn’t share.

Harding, Loevner Funds will liquidate their institutional share classes of the Global Equity Research Portfolio, International Equity Research Portfolio, and Emerging Markets Research Portfolio on or about January 31, 2024.

Janus Henderson Sustainable & Impact Core Bond will be liquidated and terminated on or about February 21, 2024. Having warmed up with that fund, Janus Henderson Global Bond Fund will follow its sibling into extinction a week later, on February 29, 2024.

Lord Abbett Global Bond Fund faces liquidation and dissolution on or around March 15, 2024. One week later, on March 22, 2024, Lord Abbett Corporate Bond Fund will be merged into Lord Abbett Income Fund “to create a single larger fund” (as if that were a goal in and of itself).

MainStay Defensive ETF Allocation Fund and MainStay ESG Multi-Asset Allocation Fund will be liquidated on February 28, 2024.

The Mercer US Large Cap Equity Fund will be liquidated on February 1, 2024.

After careful consideration, and at the recommendation of Merk Investments LLC, the investment adviser to the Merk Stagflation ETF the Board of Trustees of Listed Funds Trust approved the closing and subsequent liquidation of the Fund pursuant to the terms of a Plan of Liquidation. Accordingly, the Fund is expected to cease operations, liquidate its assets, and distribute the liquidation proceeds to shareholders on or about December 27, 2023.

Mirova U.S. Sustainable Equity Fund was not sustained into the New Year. Instead, it passed away on December 28, 2023.

The Superfund Managed Futures Strategy Fund will be liquidated on or about March 29, 2024.

V-Shares US Leadership Diversity ETF and V-Shares MSCI World ESG Materiality and Carbon Transition ETF will be liquidated immediately after the close of business on January 10, 2024

Effective December 13, 2023, the Virtus Duff & Phelps International Real Estate Securities Fund was liquidated (pursuant to a Plan of Liquidation).

In light of “the persistent lack of investor demand and limited prospects for future asset growth,” the WisdomTree U.S. ESG Fund will be liquidated on or about February 5, 2024. From inception in February 2007 until March 16, 2020, this was the WisdomTree U.S. Total Market Fund, which became an ESG fund when ESG was trendy.