Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

May 1, 2022

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to May. May entered English in the 1050s from the Latin Maius, short for Maius mēnsis, “Maia’s month.” But who, you might ask, is Maia? She was a Greek god, eldest of the seven Pleiades, companion of Artemis, and mother of Hermes. The Romans, as was their habit, adopted and repurposed her as a goddess of the green and growing realm. Continue reading →

To Win Today, Embrace Powerlessness and Dive Deep into the Portfolio

By Devesh Shah

“Be careful what you wish for because it might come true” – someone wise

In this article, I lead by laying out the irony in today’s Federal Reserve behavior and the financial markets. Acknowledging a tough year for the 60/40 portfolio, I look at the worst of historical drawdowns in down market cycles. I benchmark my own expectations for the 60/40 in the current cycle and invite readers to do their own work. Finally, Continue reading →

To Win Tomorrow: Question Everything

By Devesh Shah

There is a risk that 2022 is just the beginning of a treacherous investment decade. If so, it may be time to question what we know about conventional investment practices. In this article, I first highlight the so-called risk of a lost decade of real returns. Then, I raise 4 Questions we need to ask ourselves:

(1) what should be the mix between risky and riskless assets
(2) what about the active vs passive debate
(3) which assets work well during inflation
(4) which investment habits might we want to leave behind if the returns are slim.

After proposing some answers, I suggest Continue reading →

These Uncertain Times

By Charles Lynn Bolin

The Federal Reserve is raising rates to slow the economy, reduce inflation, and reduce bond purchases (Quantitative Tightening). The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are lowering forecasts of global growth, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine is further disrupting supply chains and raising geopolitical tensions. I am at my neutral allocation of 50% to stocks but have shifted away from the most volatile funds and toward more defensive funds that do well during the late stage of the business cycle and higher inflation. This article describes Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By Bill Moore

Artisan Partners launched its Artisan Global Unconstrained and Artisan Emerging Markets Debt Opportunities Funds on April 7. Michael Cirami will be the Lead Portfolio Manager while Sarah Orvin will serve as the Portfolio Manager of both funds. Both Mr. Cirami and Ms. Orvin previously worked for Eaton Vance Management.

Charles Schwab has filed filings to offer Direct indexing, which involves direct ownership of securities and thus can involve a greater level of tax management, sometime in April. Schwab’s direct indexing will have an account minimum of $100,000 and will charge a fee of 40 basis points. Initially, investors will have access to Continue reading →

April 1, 2022

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Spring is a time when we celebrate the small and uncertain signs of hope. Weighed down by the exhaustion of war and politics, pandemic and winter, we look happily at the first crocus to spring which shoulders its way through the autumnal leaf mold. We’re reluctant to invest too much in it, knowing that winter has not yet suffered its final defeat. (Here, anyway. Last Wednesday’s upper 60s was followed by Thursday’s measurable snow.) Continue reading →

Recipe-based investing

By Mark Freeland

Step One: Find the right recipe.

Indexes are recipes. By that, I mean they’re really precise sets of instructions that direct you in what ingredients, in what amounts, need to be treated, in what way to achieve a particular, predictable outcome. In investing, as in cooking, recipes are relatively recent inventions. Once upon a time, both activities were dominated by the notion that “experienced old guys do their thing, the rest of us watch in awe.”

Take luce or tench or fresh haddock, & boil them & fry them in olive oil. And then take vinegar and the third part sugar & onions minced small, & boil all together, & mace & cloves & cubeb. And lay the fish in dishes & pour the sauce above & serve it forth. Continue reading →

On Active vs Passive Equity Mutual Funds

By Devesh Shah

When I came across a quote by Peter Lynch on how passive fund investors were making a mistake, I had two choices: to sweep his comments under the rug or evaluate the validity of them. In the article below, we will look at:

    • Lynch’s argument
    • My researched reasons for preferring passive investing.
    • The role of confirmation bias and how it can hurt or help investors.
    • The results of a careful analysis of the performance of Mr. Lynch’s preferred funds
    • Finally, a few conclusions.

The takeaway: Outperforming MFs do exist but their taxable distributions are a larger drag than expected.

We’re inviting you to Continue reading →

Two cheers for active management!

By David Snowball

Devesh and I have an ongoing conversation about the value of active managers. He thoughtfully runs through the arguments – from consistency to tax efficiency – that led him to conclude, “not much value there.” Cool and sensible.

If you want to join the conversation but start with somewhat greater sympathy for the role of active managers, you might consider five arguments. Continue reading →

Managing Risk During Inflation

By Charles Lynn Bolin

I have expressed my intention to retire in the next few months with the specter of stagflation looming. I have studied the 1960s to 1970s stagflation period since I lived through these times and know that they are secular. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell recently described the potential for inflation to last for an extended period of time:

the risk is rising that an extended period of high inflation could push longer-term expectations uncomfortably higher, which underscores the need for the Committee to move expeditiously as I have described. (Powell Says ‘Inflation Is Much Too High’ And The Fed Will Take ‘Necessary Steps’ To Address,” CNBC, 3/21/2022) Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By Bill Moore

DoubleLine Capital, Jeffrey Gundlach’s $137bn asset management firm, has received approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to launch two active non-transparent ETFs.

The company initially filed for the strategies – the DoubleLine Opportunistic Bond ETF and the DoubleLine Shiller CAPE US Equities ETF – in October 2021. The funds have expense ratios of 0.5% and 0.65%, respectively.

The funds will not disclose assets Continue reading →

Overcoming Drawdowns

By Devesh Shah

My “Thoughts on Inflation Protection” essay, which appeared in MFO’s February 2022 issue, focused primarily on the role of different major asset classes in providing an inflation buffer for your portfolio. The article was focused in particular on the performance of funds and ETFs with substantial exposure to TIPS (Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities) and similar products. I highlighted the promise of short-duration TIPS funds.

In passing, I also noted the long-term potential role of domestic stocks and Equity REITS in protecting against inflation, while mentioning their two main drawbacks. One, they do not Continue reading →

Managing Risk During Normalization and Rising Rates

By Charles Lynn Bolin

Risk is defined as “the possibility of loss or injury” by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and volatility as “a tendency to change quickly and unpredictably.”

Risk refers to the possibility of loss, which is outcome focused. Volatility refers to a quick, unpredictable change, which isn’t centered on the outcome. To be a good investor, a person must be able to differentiate between these. Volatility acts as noise, while risk is worth paying attention to.

The Difference Between Risk And Volatility, Investopedia, Judy Hulsey

I continue to expect a regime change from mid-cycle to late-cycle later this year and look for opportunities to reduce exposure to riskier assets from my current 55%. Fourth-quarter nominal gross domestic product is up 11.8% compared to a year ago with the consumer price index up 7.5% for a real (inflation-adjusted) gross domestic product of 5.6%. Inflation, valuations, geopolitical risks, and volatility are Continue reading →

Death, taxes and childbirth

By Mark Freeland

As we head into March, it will soon be spring. A young man’s fancy lightly turns to love, while young and not so young investors’ thoughts turn more solemnly to taxes. This seems like an appropriate time to look at one corner of taxation – curiosities of ordinary income dividends distributed by funds.

I’ve been told that some people find taxes numbingly dull and perplexing. Who could imagine? Just to help you target your attention, Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By Bill Moore

Updates

On February 17, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged James Velissaris, the former Chief Investment Officer and founder of Infinity Q Capital Management, with overvaluing assets by more than $1 billion while pocketing tens of millions of dollars in fees.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that, from at least 2017 through February 2021, Velissaris engaged in Continue reading →

February 1, 2022

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to February. It’s a month frequently associated with the color red – as in Valentine’s Day hearts, chocolate boxes, and scandalous lingerie – but investors have started the year seeing a different kind of red.

Here’s a compendium of every Vanguard index mutual fund (one share class for each) but appearances by a handful of special guests. In one month, investors had YTD returns of … Continue reading →

Thoughts on Inflation Protection

By Devesh Shah

An entire generation of investors has come of age without needing to learn how to protect portfolios and their wealth from Inflation. The mantra, three or four years ago, was “inflation is dead.” When inflation finally appeared last year, the Federal Reserve Chair declared it to be merely “transitory.” Sticky and low inflation for years has permitted the Fed to keep interest rates at historically low levels – a development which some fear has underwritten federal deficits, emboldened stock speculators, and punished savers. Increasingly, it appears that Continue reading →