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.

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

AMG River Road Long-Short is no more. At an as-yet-unspecified date following the inevitable shareholder approval, the $20 million / four-star AMG River Road Long-Short Fund will be wiped away, with its regulatory paperwork giving rise to AMG River Road International Value Equity Fund. Its portfolio (which has only 5% international equity exposure) will be liquidated and replaced with a new all-cap, absolute value portfolio. The new managers will be Continue reading →

June 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to summer.

On the morning of Sunday, May 23, Dean Wendy Hilton-Morrow sent the following short email from the floor of the convention center in which our commencement was held.

Subject: It’s showtime!

The stage is set.

The players are gathering, nervously, outside. Over the next eight hours we’re going to celebrate Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Alger 35 ETF

By David Snowball

On May 4, 2021, Fred Alger Management launched the Alger 35 ETF (ATFV), their second active/nontransparent ETF (known colloquially as an ANT). The fund will invest in 35 stocks, typically US, typically mid- to large-cap (98% of the portfolio), and uniformly high growth.

Alger was founded in 1964 as a growth investor with all of its strategies using the same underlying discipline that focused on Continue reading →

Northern U.S. Quality ESG Fund (NUESX)

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

This Fund seeks to invest in high-quality companies that are industry leaders with regards to their environmental, social, and governance practices. Their investable universe is mid- to large-cap US stocks excluding those companies involved in ESG controversies or those that violate global norms like the United Nations Global Compact. They also remove 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 we survey actively managed funds and ETFs in the pipeline. This month brings 28 new products in the pipeline, most of which will launch in August or September. The recent record, though, is that many authorized products are Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

The fund-to-ETF train appears to be leaving the station.

On May 7, 2021, the Adaptive Growth Opportunities Fund became the Adaptive Growth Opportunities ETF.

At some time in the third quarter of 2021, Water Island Long/Short Fund will become the AltShares Event-Driven ETF. That’s a more convoluted change since the fund will change Continue reading →

May 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The Tenth Year … and the Ninth Inning

Ten years ago this month, we launched the first issue of the Mutual Fund Observer, “a site in the tradition of FundAlarm.” As the antiquated text below notes, FundAlarm was one of the industry’s most independent, critical voices for 15 years, from 1996-2011. I had the privilege of writing for FundAlarm over its last five years. While the publisher and curmudgeon-in-chief Roy Weitz knew that his time was drawing to a close, he and over 100 readers were sure that the mission of FundAlarm – to be a thoughtful voice and unabashed champion of “the little guy” – was not.

And so the Mutual Fund Observer was born. Continue reading →

Hacking through the green wilds

By David Snowball

It’s become increasingly clear that the global climate is becoming dangerous. Google Earth now has a time-lapse feature that allows us to watch changes in the planet – from the disappearance of glaciers to the drying of the Aral sea to the disappearance of Brazilian rainforests – over the past 37 years. The West and Southwest are locked in drought with record-low reservoir levels. Atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 650,000 years with the 20 hottest years in recorded history all occurring since 1998.

But you knew that already. Increasingly we (young and old, liberal and conservative, individual and corporation) accept that we’re in Continue reading →

A decade on: Artisan Global Value (ARTGX)

By David Snowball

What they do

The managers pursue long-term growth by investing in 30-50 undervalued global stocks.  Generally, they avoid small-cap stocks but can invest up to 30% in emerging and less developed markets. The managers look for four characteristics in their investments:

  1. A high-quality business
  2. With a strong balance sheet
  3. Shareholder-focused management
  4. Selling for less than it’s worth.

The managers can Continue reading →

A decade on: LKCM Balanced (LKBAX)

By David Snowball

What they do

The managers invest in a combination of US blue-chip stocks, investment-grade intermediate-term bonds, convertible securities, and cash. There’s a bit more mid-cap exposure than their peers offer but noticeably less direct international exposure. In general, at least 25% of the portfolio will be bonds. In practice, the fund is generally 70% equities. The portfolio turnover rate is modest, typically Continue reading →

A decade on: Osterweis Strategic Investment (OSTVX)

By David Snowball

What they do

Osterweis starts with a strategic allocation that’s 50% equities and 50% bonds. In bull markets, they can increase the equity exposure to as high as 75%. In bear markets, they can drop it to as low as 25%. Their argument is that “Over long periods of time, we believe a static balanced allocation of 50% equities and 50% fixed income has the potential to provide investors with returns rivaling an equity-only portfolio but with less principal risk, lower volatility, and greater income.” Because they don’t 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 we survey actively managed funds and ETFs in the pipeline. This month brings 34 new products in the pipeline, most of which will Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

A Gold medal for T. Rowe Price: Morningstar has upgraded their assessment of T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Series funds to Gold, their highest endorsement. It’s an endorsement we share. Twenty-four of T. Rowe Price’s funds – including many of the retirement date funds – earn our “Great Owl” designation for consistently top-tier risk-adjusted-performance. We have recognized the firm Continue reading →

April 1, 2021

By David Snowball

No one knows quite when the April Fool’s (or All Fool’s) tradition arose. The internet is rife with simple, self-assured explanations that are flawed only by the fact that they’re wrong. “Attestations,” that is, contemporary historical recordings referring to the event, are scarce and most of the explanations (“it’s all about the Gregorian calendar in France!”) fail to account for all of the observed behavior.

My preferred speculation: spring,  it felt like a good time to do silly things.

Huge swaths of the Continue reading →

The case for a stock-light portfolio, version 4.0

By David Snowball

“Stocks for the long-term!” goes the mantra. That chant has two meanings: (1) in the (very) long-term, no asset outperforms common stock. And (2) in any other term, stocks are too volatile to the trusted so if you’re going to buy them, be sure you’re doing it with a long time horizon.

My own non-retirement portfolio, everything outside the 403(b), embeds a healthy skepticism about stocks. The strategic asset allocation is always the same: 50% equity, 50% income. Equity is 50% here, 50% there, as well as 50% large and 50% small. Income tends to be the same: 50% short Continue reading →

SmartETFs Dividend Builder ETF (DIVS)

By David Snowball

Formerly Guinness Atkinson Dividend Builder (GAINX) and, prior to 2014, Guinness Atkinson Inflation Managed Dividend Fund.

Objective and Strategy

SmartETFs Dividend Builder ETF seeks consistent dividend growth at a rate greater than the rate of inflation by investing in a global portfolio of about 35 dividend-paying stocks. Stocks in the portfolio have survived four Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Phillip Toews, Toews Hedged US Fund (THLGX)

By David Snowball

Phillip (Felipe) Toews (“Taves”) founded Toews Asset Management in December 1994 with the aim of providing intelligently risk-managed portfolios for clients. Headquartered in New York, the firm manages $2.2 billion between its six mutual funds, two Agility Shares ETFs and separately managed accounts. In addition to managing investments directly, it has an active advisor education program to help advisors effectively incorporate behavioral insights into Continue reading →

Launch Alert: T. Rowe Price Global Impact Equity

By David Snowball

On March 15, 2021, T. Rowe Price launched T. Rowe Price Global Impact Equity (TGPEX).

Socially responsible investing is all the vogue, and for good reason. The great bulk of such funds have a limited mandate: do no evil. They’re not trying to change the world, they’re just charged with avoiding the worst actors in it.

A minority of funds accept a greater Continue reading →