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.

May 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

A Tale of Two Cities

Nominally Chip and I reside in the Quad Cities, whose t-shirts describe them as “twice as nice as the Twin Cities.” It’s a lovely and surprisingly diverse urban area with about 450,000 people and an agglomeration of two dozen small cities and towns. Half of us reside in Illinois, just south of the Mississippi River, and half in Iowa, on the river’s north bank.

The Mississippi River actually flows from east to west here. Recently, though, it has been flowing east, west, north, south, and, more than occasionally, up. As I write, the Mississippi is cresting at 22′, about five feet above the level at which we declare a major flood. People in Davenport take notice. That’s one Continue reading →

Investing Without an Ulcer

By David Snowball

The good news is, in the long term, things will work out okay.

The bad news is that there are a lot of miserable short-terms between now and then. The most successful long-term investments are ones that allow you to endure the short term with a minimum of trauma.

Or drama. (Comedian Anita Renfroe offers, “Difficulty is inevitable. Drama is a choice.”)

Or ulcers. (Philosopher Marilyn Monroe: “If you spend your life competing with businessmen, what do you have? A bank account and ulcers!”)

Ulcers are to be avoided. We have a way. Continue reading →

April 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Chip and I celebrated the start of Spring – or at least Augustana’s spring break – with a long sojourn to New Orleans. Our options were either a series of flights totaling about 10 hours or a 14-hour drive. For better and worse, we chose the latter, loaded the car with snacks, books, and music, and headed down the Mississippi from the Quad Cities to the Big Easy. The drive took us through seven states and one swath of utter destruction. The night before our passing, a tornado in Mississippi decapitated a forest adjacent to Interstate 55. Imagine, if you might, hundreds of mature trees either snapped off five feet above the ground or ripped up by their roots. It was spectacular and a sobering reminder of the price we’ll pay for a heating planet.

We ate well – she more Continue reading →

Osterweis Strategic Income Fund (OSTIX), April 2023

By David Snowball

“Yearning for the good old days is not an investment strategy”

Objective and strategy

The strategy is to preserve capital and attain long-term total returns through a combination of current income and moderate capital appreciation. The managers invest in income-producing securities, primarily high-yield bonds, but will shift the allocation to managing a changing risk and opportunity set. Such changes might include shifting toward higher quality or shorter duration securities and increasing the fund’s cash stake. As of February 28, 2023, 77% of the portfolio is invested in high-yield bonds with an average duration Continue reading →

RiverPark Strategic Income Fund (RSIVX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund is seeking high current income and capital appreciation consistent with the preservation of capital. The managers invest in “money good” securities; that is, in securities where the underlying strength of the issuer is great enough that “the risk of loss of principal due to permanent impairment is minimal.” It can invest in both investment grade and non-investment grade securities depending on market conditions and opportunities. They can also invest in Continue reading →

The Tide Is Going Out

By David Snowball

“It’s like the tide going out; you’re starting to see all the things that have been waiting to happen,” David Sherman of Cohanzick Management, 15 March 2023 web call summary.

David Sherman is one of the industry’s most consistently successful fixed-income investors. He founded Cohanzick Management on the premise “return of capital is more important than return on capital.” His specialty is the pursuit of distinctive, low-risk diversifying strategies for fixed-income investors. “We try to focus on what we know and what we do well. We do not pursue investment ideas or strategies that are Continue reading →

Seafarer Overseas Value Fund (SFVLX), April 2023

By David Snowball

“We are living through investment regime change”

Objective and strategy

Seafarer Overseas Value pursues long-term capital appreciation. The fund typically invests in common stocks, though the managers have the ability to add both preferred stocks and fixed-income securities. The investable universe includes both emerging markets, as traditionally conceived, and companies domiciled in selected foreign developed nations Continue reading →

March 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to Spring. Some diehards erroneously insist that they’re “officially” winter-bound until the Spring equinox, March 20th this year. It need not be so.

There are two springs. Meteorological spring, which is aligned with temperatures and growing seasons, is March 1st. Astronomical spring, which is aligned with the wobble of the earth on its axis (called “precession”), begins with the Continue reading →

February 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to February. It’s a month we associate with love, St. Valentine’s Day. As holidays go, it’s another triumph for the marketers. The holiday began life as a Roman fertility festival, Lupercalia, and its attendant parties. Eventually, the Christian church made the same move here as they did with the pagan year-end festival; they repurposed the December solstice festival into Christmas and the February fertility festival into St. Valentine’s Day. The moves gave them one more tool for converting party-loving pagans into … well, party-loving Continue reading →

Richard Cook, “Where there’s mystery, there’s margin”

By David Snowball

I’m a sucker for an intriguing headline, and CityWire’s John Coumarianos came up with a doozy: “EM managers had (another) year to forget. But one fund defied the gloom” (1/9/2023). The triumphant reveal was:

only one out of the 816 funds in the Morningstar Diversified Emerging Markets category with a 2022 track record posted a positive number. That was the relatively unknown Cook & Bynum fund (COBYX), which returned 9.29%. Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Matthews Emerging Markets ex-China Active ETF

By David Snowball

On January 11, 2023, Matthews Asia launched Matthews Emerging Markets ex China Active ETF (MEMX). It is an actively managed ETF that might invest in every country in the world except China, the United States, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and most of the countries in Western Europe.

Our January issue originally, and mistakenly, suggested that the fund had launched on 12/31/2022. That was corrected as soon as Matthew’s representatives let us know of the error. Our regrets!

The fund will be Continue reading →

January 1, 2023

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to winter.

Dame Edith Sitwell, a poet and crank, observed, “Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home” (Taken Care Of: An Autobiography (1965)).

How could you not be drawn to someone who said of herself, “I am not eccentric. It’s just that I am more alive than most people. I am an unpopular Continue reading →

The Investor’s Guide to 2023: Three Opportunities to Move Toward

By David Snowball

I have no idea what the best investment of 2023 will be, and neither does anyone else. The annual exercise in futility and fantasy is well underway in the financial press and market pundit community, notwithstanding the fact that their 2022 forecasts were laughably wrong, as were their 2021, 2020, 2019 …

Section 1, The Terrified Investor

Section 2, The Exhausted Investor

Section 3, The Enterprising Investor

The Terrified Investor

If you’re obsessed about 2023, our best advice is Continue reading →

The Investor’s Guide to Speculation: Three Opportunities to Pass On

By David Snowball

The central function of financial innovation seems to be to separate you from your wealth. There are some honorable exceptions – low-cost broad-based index funds surely among them – but those are exceptional. Recently bright people, some with incredibly flexible moral standards, have offered you new opportunities to enrich them. The appeal of each of these hustles is the same: it’s different this time! We’ve got the secret! And we’re willing to let you in on it.

Here are three examples of things you don’t need. Continue reading →

December 1, 2022

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to the darkest and brightest season of the year. Each year we share the reminder of a long and resolute human impulse: to stare into the gathering gloom, frozen fields, and biting winds and to declare, “we will not surrender to the darkness, within or without. Light the fires, summon the family, call our friends and set the table. Tonight, we rejoice together.” Continue reading →

Towpath Focus: Adventures of a Growth Manager in Valueland

By David Snowball

On December 31, 2019, Oelschlager Investments launched the Towpath Focus Fund (TOWFX). The fund invests in 25-40 domestic stocks regardless of market capitalization. The fund is managed by Mark Oelschlager.

Towpath is a concentrated, all-cap equity fund. The portfolio currently holds 41 securities. About 15% of the portfolio is invested in non-US stocks and 12% in cash. Compared to its Morningstar peers, the fund has more cash, more international, and more small-cap exposure. The portfolio stocks are higher growth companies (measured by sales, cash-flow, and book value growth) that sell for lower prices (measured by price-to-book, price-to-earnings, and price-to-sales) with higher returns than either their peers or their index. Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Fidelity Hedged Equity (FEQHX)

By David Snowball

On September 1, 2022, Fidelity launched Fidelity Hedged Equity (FEQHX) which is also available in five Fidelity Advisor share classes.

The goal is Fidelity Hedged is to provide capital appreciation. Presumably, it’s also to provide capital appreciation with less volatility than the stock market, hence the “hedged” piece. The strategy is to invest in an S&P 500-like stock portfolio. That means some growth and small value but mostly large cap. The managers then apply “a disciplined options-based strategy designed to provide downside protection” mostly by buying put options, which appreciate when the relevant underlying asset depreciates. Generally, the hope is Continue reading →