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.

Optimism is not always the answer

By David Snowball

But, it is, in general, the best place to begin the search for the answer. Optimists, who assume things will work out, tend to see more paths forward, more options worth considering, than pessimists (often dubbing themselves “realists”) who know that it’s eternally time to duck-and-cover.

The word “optimism” entered the English language (1759, in French 1737) several generations before pessimism (1794) did. 

The psychological research on Continue reading →

Terrific twos: Intriguing funds not yet on your radar

By David Snowball

Most funds don’t show up on investors’ radar until they have at least a three year record, which is also the point at which they receive their inaugural Morningstar rating. That’s a generally sensible, sometimes silly constraint since many funds that have been operating for fewer than three years are actually long-tested strategies managed by highly experienced professionals which are just coming to market in a new form. Relatively recent examples of such funds include Andrew Foster’s Seafarer Overseas Growth & Income (SFGIX), Rajiv Jain’s GQG Partners Emerging Markets Equity (GQGPX), Abhay Deshpande’s Centerstone Investors (CETAX), and Amit Wadhwaney’s Moerus Worldwide (MOWNX). Collectively, those four managers had overseen more than $100 billion using strategies later embodied in their “too new to be on the radar” funds.

As a result, MFO Premium has Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Artisan International Small-Mid Fund (ARTJX)

By David Snowball

Effective 4 December 2018, the Artisan Partners officially rechristened Artisan International Small Cap as Artisan International Small-Mid Fund. Four other consequential changes were attendant to it:

On 15 October 2018, the fund reopened to new investors

On that same date, a new manager, Rezo Kanovich, took control of the fund. Mr. Kanovich and his analyst team, all of whom resigned on rather short notice, have guided Oppenheimer International Small-Mid Company (OSMAX) since early 2012.

On 4 December 2018, the fund’s investment guidelines formally changed to broaden the investable universe, though Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Centaur Total Return (TILDX)

By David Snowball

On November 1, 2018, the Board of Trustees of the Centaur Total Return Fund announced an epochal change: Zeke Ashton, Centaur Fund’s longest-tenured manager and one of its four founding managers, had notified the Board that he intended to resign after a run of 13.5 years. The Board announced an interim management agreement, effective November 15, 2018, under which DCM Advisors, LLC, would assume responsibility for the fund.

While the fund will Continue reading →

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

Before funds can be offered to the public, they’ve got to be submitted to the SEC which has 70 days to review the application. In general, advisers try to launch just before years end because that allows them to have clean “year to date” and calendar year results to share. These launches will likely occur in late February or March.

Many prospectuses were still incomplete but a couple stand out for offering services from well-respected advisors: Diamond Hill, which has a Continue reading →

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

Both the stock market’s recent volatility and the financial service industry’s ongoing revolution (there’s blood in the streets!) create and foreclose opportunities. Each month we note, briefly, the recent developments that might change the number and nature of opportunities available to you.

And, in the ongoing spirit of our predecessor FundAlarm, we do occasionally point and Continue reading →

December 1, 2018

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Winter is coming.

I’m so thankful.

Traditionally, year’s end has been a slower time. The growing season has ended, and both the farm fields and the sports fields lie mostly empty in this part of the country. Going out at night is just a touch less attractive when “night” settled in at about 4:30. New projects and wild ambitions are set aside for the new year. Traditionally, it’s a season for festivals and celebrations, only occasionally draped in religious garb. In the northern hemisphere, every religion and every culture seems to have reached the same conclusion: it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s time to get together!

Too, it’s time to reflect on the year just past and all the things we have to be thankful for. (Yes, I was awake pretty much all year in 2018, but that doesn’t change my sense of Continue reading →

Emerging markets value: a rare ray of sunshine from GMO’s strategists

By David Snowball

GMO monthly issues their “7‐Year Asset Class Real Return Forecasts” for 10 – and, beginning this month, 11 – asset classes. Their method is fairly simple: assume that things – P/E ratio, profit margin, sales growth and dividend yield – will revert to “normal” over the next 5-7 years and sketch the line from here to there. The “real” part is that you deduct the effect of inflation from the resulting “nominal” returns.

Several scholars have examined their predictive validity and found it to be pretty robust. One, examining projections from 2000-2010 then comparing them with Vanguard index funds concluded Continue reading →

Of Centaurs and unicorns

By David Snowball

Zeke Ashton never met Brenda Barnes, so far as I can tell. That’s too bad. He had, sometime this fall, his Brenda Barnes Moment. I think he would have enjoyed talking with her about it.

Brenda Barnes was many things but, for the purpose of our story, she was one of the most powerful business leaders in America. She became COO of Pepsi-Cola in 1993 then president and CEO in 1996. Later, as president of Sara Lee, Forbes ranked her as the 8th most powerful woman in the world, just ahead of Oprah Winfrey (2005). That same year, Fortune ranked her third.

But Brenda was not just Continue reading →

Your 2019 funds watchlist: Draft #1

By David Snowball

It is exceedingly unlikely that your best options in the year and years ahead are going to look much like the winners of the past two years. That reflects, in part, the market’s unresolved turmoil and, in part, the fact that the market has been unmoored from reality of late. Commentators fear that “the sugar rush” provided by the Republicans’ indiscriminate tax cut will, at best, fade and, at worst, be followed by a “sugar crash” as the consequences of trillion dollar annual deficits, rising interest costs and global instability begin to hit home.

A quick snip from my most recent newsfeed:

Is Another Market Crash Coming?

The Latest Stock Market Crash Signal Is Blaring Out of Texas

A Market Crash Is Continue reading →

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before funds can be offered to the public, they’ve got to be submitted to the SEC which has 70 days to review the application. In general, advisers try to launch just before years end because that allows them to have clean “year to date” and calendar year results to share. That means that funds hopeful of launching by December 30th needed to be filed by October 15th. Since few firms are interested in launching funds in late January or early February, this month’s filings are not-surprisingly thin. On face, the most promising is likely an actively-managed ETF from a team with a strong track record in funds: Virtus Seix Senior Loan ETF.

AB Multi-Manager Select 2060 Fund

AB Multi-Manager Select 2060 Fund will seek highest Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

In the three months from September through November, 2018, Morningstar registered 199 new funds. As it turns out, 190 of the 199 are additional share classes for existing funds. Think of share classes as marketing games: The American Funds, for example offer 17 share classes with, literally 17 different expense ratios ranging from 0.20% (529F shares) to 1.80% (529C shares). At base, the adviser creates new share classes as they cut distribution deals with various new constituencies.

Only nine, none of which I find Continue reading →

November 1, 2018

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s fall.

By the oddity of scheduling, Augustana’s fall trimester ended just as it felt that fall had descended. My students decamped on November 1, numbed from long nights of study and challenging finals, anxious to get home for “some real food.” They leave behind a campus preparing itself, at long last, for the sere and snowy season to come. Continue reading →

Who won October?

By David Snowball

October was an exciting month for investors. By various reckonings, it was the worst month since September, 2011. US stocks declined by $2 trillion in value, with Amazon alone dropping $250 billion. It was so bad that Jeff Bezos reportedly had to postpone plans to buy several small countries. Global markets, equity and fixed-income together, shrank by $5 trillion. Unless you ask The Guardian, which tallies the global equity loss at $8 trillion.  That seems unnecessarily depressing (and unattributed), so I resolved not to ask Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Seven Canyons World Innovators

By David Snowball

It is rare that we issue a Launch Alert for a seventeen year old fund. Then again, it is rare that we find a 17 year old fund as remarkable as Seven Canyons World Innovators (WAGTX / WIGTX). World Innovators was launched on December 19, 2000 as Wasatch World Innovators. The fund, with its sibling Strategic Income Fund (WASIX), was rechristened with the new Seven Canyons identity on September 10, 2018.

Seven Canyons Advisors was formed in September 2017 with Continue reading →

Launch Alert 2A: RiverPark Floating Rate CMBS Fund

By David Snowball

On November 12, 2018, RiverPark Funds launches RiverPark Floating Rate CMBS Fund (RCRFX/RCRIX). Like several of RiverPark’s funds, RCRIX began life as a hedge fund (2010-2016). Unlike any of its predecessors, it originally converted into an interval fund, a sort of closed-end fund under which structure it operated for two years (RiverPark Commercial Real Estate Fund, 2016-2018) where investors only had quarterly liquidity. That fund began begin life with $50 million in assets from its private predecessor, of which $10 million is the manager’s own money. The newest package presents the fund as a traditional open-end mutual fund with daily liquidity and both retail (RCRFX) and institutional (RCRIX) share classes.

(Why “2A”? This is not only the second Continue reading →

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

Before funds can be offered to the public, they’ve got to be submitted to the SEC which has 70 days to review the application. That means that funds hopeful of launching by December 30th needed to be filed by October 15th. We’re looking for funds that might be accessible to the average investor or advisor; we include active ETFs but not passive ones. That last restriction allows me to pretend that neither ProShares Pet Care ETF nor the US Vegan Climate ETF is about to be inflicted on us. Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Each month we round up the bits and pieces of industry news, from name changes to fund liquidations, that strike us as consequential but not consequential enough to warrant a stand-alone story. Perhaps distracted by the market’s recent turmoil, advisers have authorized far fewer changes this month than in most over the past five years. Continue reading →