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 2024

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

February is a fraught month, historically. For Romans, it once did not exist. And then it did, as the last month of the year, with the new year beginning when the crops were first sewn and all eyes looked to the future. Februalia, the festival of purification, was the last chance to put the misdeeds of the past behind us and to be prepared to build a future upon a solid foundation.

It’s also the month in which Augustana launches its Spring semester; as I ponder the snow piles on campus, I could imagine a more Continue reading →

Financial Discoveries: 10 Cool Things I Learned in January

By David Snowball

College professors are, quintessentially, learning machines. Give us 15 minutes of peace, and we’ll sink happily into piles of data, stacks of books, beckoning journal articles, or quiet processing.

And the reality of the matter is that almost no one gives anyone 15 minutes of peace these days.

Why 15 minutes? Read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience (2008). Flow is a state of complete immersion in a project, and it seems to take us 15 minutes or so to get in the flow. Every “do you have just a minute?” kicks us back out and costs us another 15 minutes to get back.

Augustana’s January Term is Continue reading →

Snowball’s Indolent Portfolio, 2023

By David Snowball

Someone will always be getting richer faster than you. This is not a tragedy.

I’ve heard Warren say a half a dozen times, “It’s not greed that drives the world, but envy.”

Envy is a really stupid sin because it’s the only one you could never possibly have any fun at. There’s a lot of pain and no fun. Why would you want to get on that trolley?

Charles Thomas Munger (1924-2023)

Each year I share Continue reading →

Touchdowns and Turnovers: MFO’s All-Star Picks for the Best US Equity Funds of 2023

By David Snowball

Touchdowns and Turnovers: MFO’s All-Star Picks for the Best US Equity Funds of 2023

Who will be the NFL MVP? The money is on Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens, declared “undeniably one of the most electric players in the league.” The 27-year-old had a passer rating of 102.7 with 3,678 yards, 24 touchdowns against seven interceptions, and played in all 16 games. He was magical. (At least until he faced the Steelers against whom he sports a 1-3 record or got to the playoffs.) For his accomplishments, he earned Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

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,” WSJ.com, 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 Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

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 Continue reading →

December 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to December. Welcome to Winter. It’s my favorite time of the year, despite the post-Covid haze that has enveloped me all week. Augustana is increasingly festive, ringing with the sounds of holiday concerts and celebrations, as well as the definite “click” of another semester coming to its close. My students, with their hummingbird-like metabolisms, are loathe to surrender their shorts and sandals even now.

We annually share the same simple reminder. Winter has always been a dark and drear span. The weather turns against us, and we retreat inward for protection. Gardens lay frozen. Workdays are framed by darkness: dark when we arise, dark when we Continue reading →

Launch Alert: T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation & Income

By David Snowball

On November 29, 2023, T. Rowe Price launched the T. Rowe Price Capital Appreciation and Income Fund (PRCFX) after the longest gestation period in fund history. Normally, there’s a lag of 70 days between a fund’s initial SEC filing and its clearance to launch. In this case, the lag is 2,590 days. The fund was organized in October 2016, filed a full prospectus in September 2017, at which point T Rowe Price bought 10,000 shares, and appeared in all of the subsequent Statements of Additional Information filed annually with the SEC.

It’s clear this has been on the adviser’s mind and Continue reading →

Launch Alert: GMO US Quality Equity ETF

By David Snowball

On November 13, 2023, the Boston-based institutional investment firm GMO, founded in 1977 as Grantham, Mayo, and Van Otterloo, launched their first retail product: GMO US Quality Equity ETF (QLTY). The actively managed fund will invest in a focused portfolio of “companies with established track records of historical profitability and strong fundamentals – high quality companies – are able to outgrow the average company over time and are therefore worth a premium price.” Expect a portfolio of about 40 names, with a 75% weighting in large-cap stocks and 25% in mid-caps. At 0.5%, the ETF charges the same expenses as the Continue reading →

Artisan and the Emerging Markets Debt Universe

By David Snowball

My colleague Devesh Shah sat down with Artisan’s Michael Cirami for a long conversation. Mr. Cirami is a managing director of Artisan Partners, a portfolio manager on the EMsights Capital Group, and lead portfolio manager for the Artisan Emerging Markets Debt Opportunities, Global Unconstrained, and Emerging Markets Local Opportunities Strategies. Two of those three strategies, Debt Opportunities and Global Unconstrained, are manifested in mutual funds.

Prior to joining Artisan Partners in Continue reading →

November 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Happy New Year! And oíche Shamhna shona duit!

November 1st is Samhain (pronounced “sow-in” in case you’re curious), the traditional beginning of the new year in Gaelic culture. It’s proceeded not only by Samhain Eve but also by … well, three days of drinking. And then followed by three days of regretting it, at least a little.

Samhain marked the end of the harvest season and the onset of “the darker half” of the year, a time of increasing isolation and decreasing food stocks. It made all the sense in the world to do what people do in the face of adversity: throw a big communal gathering, feast, and dress up in scary costumes, and tell the agents of darkness to go Continue reading →

Investing Beyond The Great Distortion

By David Snowball

Devesh Shah and David Sherman engaged in a free-range conversation that touched on benchmark-free investing over hot drinks and fresh pastries. Benchmark-free investing starts with the question, “If you simply didn’t care about ‘the conventional wisdom’ concerning which assets you were supposed to own, what assets would you own?”

Mr. Sherman and Oaktree’s Howard Marks seem to endorse the same conclusion: “likely high-yield bond, surely not stocks.” That’s certainly contrary to conventional wisdom, which is centered on Continue reading →

Fire-and-Forget Gone Wrong: First Foundation Total Return

By David Snowball

In the military realm, “fire and forget” designates a weapon that you don’t need to think about once it’s been launched. In investing, “fire and forget” could be used to describe several sorts of mistakes centering on our impulse to look away once we’ve made a decision. One of those mistakes is to buy a fund (presumably for a good reason), then sell it (presumably for a good reason), and then never re-examine your decision.

Managers – both corporate and fund – make mistakes. You can’t avoid it. They can’t. The best of them realize it, learn from it, correct it, and return to doing fine work. After inheriting Continue reading →

October 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Welcome to October, a fierce month!

It’s a month of apple harvests and Atlantic hurricanes (214 of them). Of a temperature roller coaster and of market crashes (1907, 1929, and 1987 – days with the word “Black” attached to their names, stand out). Of bonfires and of Great Fires (Mrs. O’Leary and her cow were framed, I tell ya). Of wars (from the Battle of Hastings in 1066 through the Second World War, October was always seen as your last chance for a quick land grab before wintry weather closed you down for the season) and rumors of wars (the Cuban Missile Crisis which, happily, didn’t trigger a global war in part because of President Kennedy’s familiarity with the political intransigence and misunderstanding that triggered the First World War). Of a thinning wall between the Here and the There and of Continue reading →

The 25 Year Tempest: Emerging market investing through three cataclysms

By David Snowball

Who now remembers Long-Term Capital Management, the failure of genius, the price of hubris, and the lesson that the innocents bear the cost of their elders’ folly?

Too few, judging from investor behavior.

The collapse of LTCM was the first of three global financial crises over the past 25 years that erupted primarily in the developed world, but whose consequences were primarily borne by emerging markets economies and Continue reading →

Funds worth watching for

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. Summer’s trickle of new funds becomes autumn’s torrent as advisers rush to have new products on the market by December 31. That’s because a fund launched after that date won’t get to report annual or year-to-date results for 2024, which is a serious marketing problem.

Many new funds, like many existing funds, are bad ideas. (Really, you want the latest “anti-woke” ETF or a new way to invest with Bill Miller’s son?) Most will flounder in rightful obscurity. That said, each month brings some promising options that investors might choose to track.

Two, or perhaps two point five, to add Continue reading →

September 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the end of the summer. And to the beginning of … the weakest month of the year for the stock market, with an average monthly loss of about 0.7%. And the threshold of the most volatile month of the year, October, which sees an intramonth movement of 8.3%; that is, since 1928, the record says that your portfolio will bounce 8.3% in October (but only 5.2% in February). My inbox overflows with apocalyptic forecasts and also of celebrations of The New Bull. Recognizing that it’s all bull of a sort, I move on.

Augustana welcomes the largest first-year class in its 163-year history, materially (and disconcertingly) fed by the Augustana Possible scholarships that Continue reading →

Artisan International Explorer (ARDBX/ARHBX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The investment team seeks to invest in high-quality, undervalued businesses with the potential for superior risk/reward outcomes. The investment universe is generally non-US equities with market caps below $5 billion. The portfolio is typically 25-50 holdings, with individual holdings capped at about 10% and cash generally under 15%.

Adviser

Artisan Partners, L.P. Artisan is a remarkable Continue reading →