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.

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 →

Launch Alert: Virtus KAR International Small-Mid Cap Fund

By David Snowball

On October 1, 2019, Virtus launched Virtus KAR International Small-Mid Cap Fund (VKIAX). 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 two core attributes Continue reading →

Funds in Reg

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 January, which is a really bad problem for those trying to market the funds. Because these funds won’t be trading on the first day of the year, they’re not eligible for “year-to-date” returns reports and reporting services such as Morningstar won’t give them “credit” for Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

This is a first for us. Aspiriant Defensive Allocation Fund (RMDFX) will be reorganized as a newly created closed-end fund called (ready?) Aspiriant Defensive Allocation Fund that will operate as an interval fund.  The change should occur by the end of the first quarter of 2020.

Closed-end funds? Hard to remember that they’re alive and well. That slice of the industry originated in the 1890s and they’re sort of an open-end mutual/active ETF Continue reading →

November 1, 2019

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

It’s November 1, the traditional beginning of the holiday avoidance season. It’s the time of year when I program-out the local radio stations (not listening to you, Mix96) that switched to the 24/7 Christmas music today and the big box retailers who have declared that November 1 is Black Friday. (Looking at you, Kohls.) I will, with all my might, avoid their tinsel-festooned commercial caverns all of this month, and as much of next as I might.

That’s not because I dislike the year-end holidays. No, quite to the contrary: I’ve always embraced the communal spirit of celebration, the defiance Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Jonathan Brodsky and Waldemar Mozes Harbor International Small Cap (HIISX)

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 a few hundred 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.

On May 23, 2019, Harbor Capital Advisors did a Continue reading →