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.

February 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Focus, people! Focus!

It’s never wise to focus on just a single trading day, especially one like the last day of January 2020:

Goodness, no. That will surely lead you to all sorts of bad decisions: selling your portfolio, readying Yahoo Finance, rending your garments, drinking a Keystone (or a Natty Bo, a Natty Lite, a Genny Cream…).

God forfend.

One alternative is to focus on stuff that Continue reading →

Biggest Bang for your Buck

By David Snowball

20 Equity funds with the best capture ratios over the entire market cycle

Capture ratio is a sort of “bang for your buck” summary. It’s calculated by dividing a fund’s upside capture (a fund that typically rises 1.1% when the market rises 1% has an upside capture of 1.10) by its downside capture (a fund that typically falls 1.1% when the market falls 1% has a downside capture of 1.10). Capture ratios greater than 1.0 reflect funds that produce more gains than losses; all other things being equal, high capture ratio funds are offering you the greatest reward for every unit of risk you’ve been subjected to.

Capture ratios even the playing field for cautious and aggressive investors. A cautious investor might look for a fund with a downside capture of no more than 0.80. Given that constraint, anything above Continue reading →

FAM Dividend Focus (FAMEX) Prior to 2019, this was FAM Equity-Income

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The strategy attempts to provide current income as well as long-term capital appreciation by investing primarily in stocks that pay dividends. The managers think of themselves as value investors and attempt to answer the question, “if I could buy the whole company at these prices, would I?” That means calculating its “true business worth” and comparing that to the current stock market cap. They attempt to remain fully invested in stocks and convertibles. They tend to buy mid-caps, though their willingness to let winners run means that Continue reading →

Funds in Reg

By David Snowball

The funds in registration with the SEC in January will launch right around April Fool’s Day. For some, that’s probably foreshadowing.

Two particularly interesting sets of launches:

American Century has debuted two actively-managed, non-transparent ETFs, both with ESG screens.

WCM is launching three new funds, all international, all quality-focused, two explicitly ESG-focused. WCM has a really outstanding, off-the-radar record. The non-ESG versions of these funds are both Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Effective December 31, 2019, founder Bill Nasgovitz resigned as president of the Heartland Funds and retired from its Board of Directors. He was succeeded, on January 1, 2020, by his son Will.

On December 31, 2019, founder James Oelschlager and his wife Vanita, the owners of Oak Associates, completed the transaction to sell substantially all of their ownership interest to a group led by members of their management team

A quick congratulations to Dennis Baran for being sharp-eyed and active. In December, our Elevator Talk focused on Joe Shaposhnik of the entirely-excellent TCW New America Premier Equities (TGUSX). Dennis, the author of several fine fund profiles for us, was intrigued by what he read, investigated and discovered that while Continue reading →

January 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the New Year. May it be blessed and joyful, full of mirth and mischief (really, what’s life without a bit of mischief?) for us all.

As I finish this essay on New Year’s Eve Day, the stock market is handing out returns with the enthusiasm (and responsibility) of a politician handing out tax cuts or a central banker handing out liquidity boosts. The Vanguard Total Stock Market Index (VTSMX) stands to end the year with a 30% gain.

Heck, it was almost impossible Continue reading →

“We’re here because you’re looking for the best of the best of the best, sir!”

By David Snowball

When I first started writing regularly about funds and investing, it was as an analyst for FundAlarm, a site whose publisher proclaimed

Our view of the mutual fund industry is slightly off-center. We help you decide when it’s time to sell a fund, instead of when it’s time to buy. The mutual fund industry is full of broken promises, arrogance, greed, hypocrisy — the list goes on. We try to shine a light in the darker corners, and poke holes in balloons that could use some poking.

In honoring that heritage, we routinely Continue reading →

In celebration of Ted Didesch (1937-2019)

By David Snowball

On 9 December 2019, the longest-tenured member of the MFO Discussion Board passed away. Theodore J. Didesch, universally known as “Ted” though he dearly wished for the sobriquet “The Linkster,” died of congestive heart failure.

We mourn his passing even as we celebrate his life. I’d like to share a few words about Ted, interspersed with the comments left by other members of our community on a memorial thread.

FundAlarm launched its “moderated Bulletin Board” in 1998. Ted arrived Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Michael Carne, Westwood Flexible Income (WFLEX)

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 200-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.

Michael Carne manages WFLEX which launched December 19, 2018. He joined Westwood in Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Harbor Robeco US Conservative Equities

By David Snowball

On December 2, 2009, Harbor Funds launched six new offerings, including four overtly “conservative equities” funds. Those funds are:

  • Harbor Robeco US Conservative Equities
  • Harbor Robeco International Conservative Equities
  • Harbor Robeco Global Conservative Equities
  • Harbor Robeco EM Conservative Equities

All four are being advised by a team from 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, Funds in Registration gives you a peek into the new product pipeline. Most funds currently in registration will not become available until late February.

We found 24 funds in the pipeline. What stands out is Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Seafarer thrills! Russ Kinnel, anyway. Russ’s December 30thThe Thrilling 34” article sought to create “a short list of outstanding funds accessible to individual investors.” The plan was to screen for the more important investment factors, “and let them do the weeding for me.”  They are

  • Expense ratio in the category’s cheapest quintile.
  • Manager investment of more than $1 million in the fund.
  • Morningstar Risk rating below the High level.
  • Morningstar Analyst Rating of Bronze or higher.
  • Parent rating better than average/neutral.
  • Returns above the fund’s benchmark for a minimum of five years.
  • Must be a share class accessible to individual investors

On a list dominated by Continue reading →

December 1, 2019

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the last 2019 issue of Mutual Fund Observer. Thanks for being here.

There’s rather a lot going on with this month’s issue whose theme might be “get some perspective while it’s still possible.” We’ll talk a bit about preparing for less hospitable markets. Vanguard’s Total Stock Market Index is up 27% YTD without a notable stumble along the way; it simply doesn’t get more hospitable. Since the economy, earnings and CPI didn’t grow by anywhere near that much, most of the gain comes from “multiple expansion,” the willingness of investors to pay more today than they did yesterday for the same thing. Vanguard itself is not Continue reading →

MFO’s Portfolio Pruning Primer

By David Snowball

We’re near year’s end, decade’s end, and quite possibly the bull market’s end and the economic expansion’s end. It’s been easy to be a bad investor for the past 10 years: the market’s relentless rise, fueled by enormous amounts of fiscal (hello, trillion-dollar deficits!) and monetary (hello, negative real interest rates!) stimulus, had made it likely that even a badly constructed portfolio booked acceptable – perhaps even double-digit – returns.

Do not bet your future on a repeat of that happy pattern.

The Observer’s core beliefs are (1) valuations Continue reading →

Liquidity Risks and Warnings

By David Snowball

What’s the worst that could happen? Managers’ own words on liquidity risks

Liquidity seems like an awfully esoteric concern, something akin to “coverage ratios” or “yield to call calculations.” In general, it feels like background noise.

Your fund managers disagree. New research estimates that 50% of high-yield funds and, more importantly, 15% of all fixed-income funds are vulnerable to a liquidity crunch. To understand what that means, you first need to understand that “liquidity” means. If you need to polish up your understanding of the term – or your ability to explain it to clients – start with the section entitled What’s Liquidity? If you’re rock solid on the concept, then jump ahead to Welcome to a Liquidity Crisis. Continue reading →

North Star Dividend Fund (NSDVX), December 2019

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

For North Star Dividend, generating dividend income is the primary goal. Capital appreciation comes second. They pursue that goal by investing primarily in dividend-paying small- and micro-cap stocks. They typically target stocks under $1 billion in market cap, which is quite low even for a small-cap fund. Their preference is for stocks yielding over 3%.

The fund’s strategy has them seeking companies with market capitalizations of less than $1 billion that pay dividends, have a history of paying and increasing dividends, and have high free cash flow and attractive values, as measured by their Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Joseph Shaposhnik, TCW New America Premier Equities (TGUSX/TGUNX)

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 200-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.

Joe Shaposhnik manages TGUSX which launched January 29, 2016. The underlying strategy, launched on Continue reading →

Small-Cap Dividend Options

By David Snowball

We’ve written in November and December about two excellent options for investors interested in small-cap funds with a dividend focus. Those are Crawford Small Cap Dividend (CDOFX) and North Star Dividend (NSDVX). What might interest you about such funds?

    1. Over the long term, small caps outperform large caps
    2. Over the long term, dividends bolster returns and dampen volatility
    3. There are hundreds of small stocks which pay dividends, but they’re mostly underfollowed and rarely included in passive ETFs / index funds

Readers who would like to Continue reading →