Author Archives: David Snowball

About David Snowball

David Snowball, PhD (Massachusetts). Cofounder, lead writer. David is a Professor of Communication Studies at Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois, a nationally-recognized college of the liberal arts and sciences, founded in 1860. For a quarter century, David competed in academic debate and coached college debate teams to over 1500 individual victories and 50 tournament championships. When he retired from that research-intensive endeavor, his interest turned to researching fund investing and fund communication strategies. He served as the closing moderator of Brill’s Mutual Funds Interactive (a Forbes “Best of the Web” site), was the Senior Fund Analyst at FundAlarm and author of over 120 fund profiles. David lives in Davenport, Iowa, and spends an amazing amount of time ferrying his son, Will, to baseball tryouts, baseball lessons, baseball practices, baseball games … and social gatherings with young ladies who seem unnervingly interested in him.

Standpoint Multi-Asset Fund: Forcing Me to Reconsider

By David Snowball

I have a deep distrust of managed futures funds. The logic is simple: isolate asset classes that are uncorrelated, invest only in the uptrending assets, ignore (or short) the losing classes, and you get a long, smooth ride to prosperity.

The research behind them is so beautiful and compelling. Various backtests suggest that a managed futures strategy would have returned 13.5% annually for the period 1972-2010.  During that same period, the equity market would have returned Continue reading →

Red flags over China

By David Snowball

There is an ongoing debate about whether Chinese President Xi’s economic reforms fundamentally threaten the investment case for China (and, by extension, for the emerging markets universe which China dominates). The Economist warns that “China’s new reality is rife with danger” (10/2/2021):

His campaign is remarkable for its scope and ambition. It started to rumble in 2020, when officials blocked the initial public offering of Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Amy Greer and Jennifer Klass, Baker McKenzie

By David Snowball

MFO’s Elevator Talks serve as a way of introducing you to smart people who (a) we’ve only recently met and (b) we’ve become convinced that you should hear from. In the usual course of events, that translates to a fund manager whose approach seems promising and intriguing but whom we’re still learning about (and from). Elevator Talks aren’t recommendations. They’re invitations: to hear from impressive folks, deepen your understanding of important issues and strategies.

In the normal course of things, we interview fund managers. Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

The Securities and Exchange Commission, by law, gets between 60 and 75 days to review proposed new funds before they can be offered for sale to the public. Each month we survey actively managed funds and ETFs in the pipeline. This month brings 39 new products in the pipeline, most of which will launch by the end of December. Only Smead International Value overtly flags a 2022 launch.

The four most important words to keep in mind when you’re reviewing this month’s filings: Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

The Ivy Fund liquidations announced in September 2021 and October 2021 have been temporarily suspended. No word on why or when the executions will proceed.

Briefly Noted . . .

The Cook & Bynum Fund modified their prospectus to flag a new risk factor, one that’s likely unprecedented in the industry: Risk of Current Focus on Breweries and Soft Drink Bottling and Distribution. The adviser allows that they hold “from time to time, a Continue reading →

October 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to autumn. Or, at least, our current attempt at autumn. Temperatures here in Iowa remain in the 80s and there’s only the barest hint of typical autumnal weather: a bit cooler nights, pumpkins studding the fields, the steady flow of apples out of the orchards, and bits of color emerging on the maples.

And, speaking of pumpkins it’s time to celebrate  … Continue reading →

Time to take out the trash: 25 huge funds with serious questions

By David Snowball

It is unfair and irrational to judge a fund solely on its total returns, much less on whether it has managed to “beat the market” lately. The former concern ignores a long series of important questions, the most important of which is “how much risk does the strategy expose you to in exchange for those returns?” Many would argue that receiving 20% of the market’s gains is great if you bear only 10% of its risk, and that’s what you signed up for in the first place.

The latter concern is simply lunatic. Rational people do not invest with the goal of beating the market. Rational people invest with the goal of ending up with resources that match or exceed their needs. If you beat the market ten years straight and your resources are less than your needs, you have lost. If you trail the market ten years straight and your resources exceed your needs, you have won. Continue reading →

Launch Alert: CrossingBridge Pre-Merger SPAC ETF

By David Snowball

On September 17, 2021, CrossingBridge Advisors, LLC, launched their actively managed Pre-Merger SPAC ETF (SPC). CrossingBridge, primarily an institutional/high net worth advisor located in Pleasantville, New York, has approximately $970 million in assets under management and is responsible for the CrossingBridge Low Duration High Yield, CrossingBridge Ultra-Short Duration, and the CrossingBridge Responsible Credit funds.

While the buzz surrounding SPACs is that they are a high-risk, get-rich-quick scheme, the CrossingBridge fund is Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

The Securities and Exchange Commission, by law, gets between 60 and 75 days to review proposed new funds before they can be offered for sale to the public. Each month we survey actively managed funds and ETFs in the pipeline. This month brings 33 new products into the pipeline, most of which will launch by the end of late November.

French historian Jean Francois Marmontel (1723-99) coined, and the American agitator Thomas Paine (in The Age of Reason, 1793) popularized, the phrase “from the ridiculous to the sublime.” This month’s offerings perfectly capture that sentiment, ranging at they do from a bunch of marketing confections destined for Continue reading →

Briefly Noted…

By David Snowball

Updates

And the beat goes on. Five more mutual funds are becoming ETFs. On October 22, 2021, the Adaptive Fundamental Growth Fund, Adaptive Hedged High Income Fund, Adaptive Hedged Multi-Asset Income Fund, Adaptive Tactical Outlook Fund, and Adaptive Tactical Rotation Fund will be converted into the AI Quality Growth ETF, Adaptive High Income ETF, RH Hedged Multi-Asset Income ETF, RH Tactical Outlook ETF, and RH Tactical Rotation ETF, respectively. While the names and structure change, the investment strategies do not.

DFA is dancing to that very beat. Two more active DFA mutual funds have converted to ETFs: Dimensional International value ETF (DIV) and Dimensional DFA World ex US Core Equity 2 ETF (DFAX). That brings the DFA tally to Continue reading →

September 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s fall! We’re back! And we hope you are, too.

Well, it’s “meteorological fall” anyway. “Astronomical fall” (or is it “anatomical fall”? I can’t recall) holds off until September 22. With two classrooms full of students (one studying Propaganda with me, the other Advertising and Consumer Culture), my brain assures Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Value

By David Snowball

On August 3, 2021, Virtus Partners launched their latest collaboration with Kayne, Anderson, Rudnick (KAR), Virtus KAR Small-Mid Cap Value. The fund is managed by the KAR of the title: Kayne, Anderson Rudnick Investment Management, Virtus’s largest wholly-owned subsidiary. KAR, based in Los Angeles, manages rather more than $17 billion in assets.

Across all of their portfolios, KAR emphasizes Continue reading →

Harbor International Small Cap (HIISX / HNISX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Harbor International Small Cap Fund pursues long-term growth by investing in a diversified portfolio of international small-cap stocks. They have three particular preferences:

  1. demonstrate traditional value metrics primarily on a price to book, price to earnings, and/or dividend yield basis;
  2. well-capitalized and transparent balance sheets and funding sources; and
  3. business models that are undervalued by the market.

Up to 15% of Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

The Securities and Exchange Commission, by law, gets between 60 and 75 days to review proposed new funds before they can be offered for sale to the public. Each month we survey actively managed funds and ETFs in the pipeline. This month brings 50 new products in the pipeline, most of which will launch by the end of October. The recent record, though, is that many authorized products are being Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Effective immediately, Neuberger Berman Commodity Strategy Fund‘s investment strategy will permit the fund to invest up to 5% of its assets in cryptocurrency investments through bitcoin futures and investments in the securities of exchange-traded funds organized and listed for trading in Canada to gain indirect exposure to bitcoin.

WisdomTree Cloud Computing Fund, an active ETF, now solemnly swears not to invest in … you know, weapons systems, coal, or tobacco. In short, it’s declared itself to be Continue reading →

August 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

As we announced in June, the Observer is on hiatus for the month of August.

Hmmm … you know, it’s gone fishin’.

Disconnected.

Chillaxin’.

This is my first scheduled break from publishing in 25 years, and Chip’s first in nearly a decade. We took the opportunity for our first out-of-town trip – back to Chip’s native state of New York – in 18 months. We celebrated the marriage of Chip’s son David (in the company of her father, David) on the 17th and spent a bit of time with her Continue reading →

Launch Alert: T. Rowe Price Retirement Blend Funds

By David Snowball

On July 28, 2021, T. Rowe Price launched its fourth set of target-date funds, the Retirement Blend Series. The Retirement Blend strategy has been in operation since 2018 but has been available only through collective investment trusts. The new fund series complements the existing Retirement and Target Series (as well as the Retirement Hybrid series that’s available only through a collective investment trust). All four series invest, primarily, in other T. Rowe Price funds. Retirement and Target invest, primarily but not Continue reading →

July 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Welcome to July, dear friends.

It’s summertime, an especially blessed and cursed interval for those of us who teach. On the one hand, we’re mostly freed from the day-to-day obligation to be in the classroom. Some of us write, some travel, some joke about “going topless at the beach” which translates to leaving their masks at home, some undertake “such other duties as may from time to time be assigned” by our colleges. On the other hand, we hear the clock ticking. All year long, as we try to face down a stack of 32 variably literate essays at 11 p.m. Sunday night, we think “if I can just make it to summer, I’ll recharge and it’ll be great!” About the first thing we notice when summer does arrive, is that summer is almost Continue reading →