Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

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 →

Right Beneath My Nose

By Charles Lynn Bolin

VictoryShares Enhanced Volatility Weighted ETF (CDC), a Great Owl with an Eye on Volatility

Each month, I sift through funds in my Ranking System, as well as trending funds, using the Mutual fund Observer MultiSearch screen. I search for high risk-adjusted returns across many asset classes for diversification. In March, I discovered VictoryShares Enhanced Volatility Weighted ETFs right under my nose. In this article, I look at the difference between low volatility funds and funds with high-risk adjusted returns.

 This article is divided into sections for those who wish to 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 →

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 →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


On March 26, 2021, Guinness Atkinson Asia Pacific Dividend Builder Fund (GAADX) and the Guinness Atkinson Dividend Builder Fund (GAINX) were converted into ETFs.

Following the model pioneered by GA, Adaptive Fundamental Growth Fund, Adaptive Hedged High Income Fund, Adaptive Hedged Multi-Asset Income Fund, Adaptive Tactical Outlook Fund, and Adaptive Tactical Rotation Fund are being converted into the Adaptive Fundamental Growth ETF, Adaptive Hedged High Income ETF, Adaptive Hedged Multi-Asset Income ETF, Adaptive Tactical Outlook ETF, and Adaptive Tactical Rotation ETF, respectively.

DFA, the other firm Continue reading →

March 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Welcome to spring!


I first knew that spring had arrived – despite the day’s sub-zero temps – when I noticed that my students weren’t blinking anymore. The cheerful banter and occasional sass of my January term class is a chapel-like silence. Sitting in orderly rows, they look neither right nor left but smile in bland detachment. Footwear begins to shift from winter’s stylish combat boots to sneakers and sandals. The Bold celebrate a 45-degree day by donning shorts and carrying a light jacket over their arms (while The Old stays sensibly zipped up and suspicious of youth and weather both).

I can’t verify that their “fancy lightly turns to Continue reading →

Inflation, Trends, and Market Manipulation

By Charles Lynn Bolin

This past week has seen some significant market turmoil as the yield on 10-year treasuries climbed quickly to 1.5% while the S&P 500 dipped 2.5% on Thursday, February 25th. I show the Moving Average Convergence Divergence indicator below. The trends are short-term bearish. In this article, I focus on funds that lost less than a half percent on Thursday and were trending up over the past several months for clues on where to invest with the possibility of inflation rising.

This article is divided into four sections for those Continue reading →

Considering the “ESG bubble”

By David Snowball

ESG funds drew over $50 billion of net inflows in 2020, more than double their gains in 2019, according to Morningstar. On the whole, they performed splendidly.

A particularly surprising finding is that ESG-screened funds perform exceptionally well in sharp market corrections, both in market crashes between 2000-2011 and in the 2020 Covid crash. While such funds might marginally trail broader markets in good times, their down-market performance gives them an attractive long-term profile.

A panicked crowd immediately gathered and Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Humankind US Stock ETF 

By David Snowball

In the normal course of events, we screen the fund universe (which includes active ETFs) for intriguing options which had debuted in the preceding three months. In general, that means reviewing “Funds in Registration” columns from the preceding quarter, as well as screening MFO Premium and Morningstar databases.

We arrived at this fund Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


On the value of actual human intelligence: The decade’s biggest fund scandal broke on Monday when the SEC accused the advisor of Infinity Q Diversified Alpha Fund (IQDNX) of “adjusting the methodology for obtaining certain asset valuations.” James Velissaris, founder and CIO, was placed on administrative leave while the investigation continues.

The remnants of the fund’s website describe it this Continue reading →

February 1, 2021

By David Snowball

The Delights of January

I’m writing this on the final day of my January (aka J-term) class, Advertising and Consumer Culture. The course, like Propaganda, falls within the purview of my academic specialty, mass persuasion and compliance-gaining. It starts with the deceptively simple query: what might the consequences be of hearing the same message – you should be dissatisfied with your life, you need more! – 100,000 times?

Not to keep you in suspense but “not good.”

I approached the class with a sense of Continue reading →

Trending Funds by Stage

By Charles Lynn Bolin

Mention of “trending funds” often invokes thoughts of investors pouring into the hottest fund and that is probably true to an extent. This article looks at stages of trends for funds. This is an evolving experiment based on data about trends, moving averages and money flows from MFO Premium. As someone nearing retirement, I own core funds that are buy and hold for extended periods. I also invest a portion to take advantage of the economic and investing environment. Investors should develop storylines of why they own funds such as low valuations, a declining dollar, inflation, and stimulus expectations, but should look for confirming trends before investing.

The first stage of trending funds is after a correction for funds that are starting to recover, which I designated as the Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


Eric Heufner, president of Grandeur Peak Global, shares the sad news of the death on January 21, 2021, of one of his colleagues.

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of our dear friend and colleague, Keefer Babbitt. Keefer was not only a great partner and friend, he also set the bar extremely high as it relates to his work. His character, work ethic, depth of thought and the quality of his output were greatly admired by all of us at Grandeur Peak. Keefer joined Grandeur Peak in 2012 as one of our first interns, and over the past 8+ years he has been a true builder of our firm. He made an enormous difference here and he will be greatly missed.

Keefer’s current roles included co-managing the Global Contrarian Fund alongside Mark Madsen and Robert Gardiner, co-managing the Global Reach Fund with six other portfolio managers, contributing on our Industrials team, and of course first and foremost serving as a global research analyst. Given our unique team-based approach, we do not anticipate making any immediate changes to the portfolio management of either fund.

Continue reading →

January 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Farewell to 2020!

The three words that best describe it are as follows, and I quote: “Stink, stank, stunk!” (With thanks to the incomparable Thurl Ravenscroft, 1914-2005, who brought the song to life.)

Unwashed socks? Seasick crocodile? Dead tomato splotched with moldy purple spots? Three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce? Got it, got it, got it!

It stunk.

But really, Continue reading →

Things I think I think, early 2021 version

By David Snowball

I’ve been pondering things at year’s end, from elections and intransigence to the possibilities of functional government and transcendence. I’m not at all (not even 1%) sure of what 2021 will bring, and yet I need to plan for it anyway.

So, here’s a sort of think-aloud experiment in which I just share what I’ve learned in the past couple of months and where it might (or might not) lead in the year ahead. I’ll divide the essay into two sections: “stakes in the ground” represent the Continue reading →

21st Century champions

By David Snowball

The second decade of the 21st century has just closed. The third decade promises turbulence in the near-term and disappointment in the longer term. A host of factors drives that pessimism. Interest rates are near-zero and likely to remain there, according to the chairman of the Fed, for years. That means that money market funds will return zero only if their sponsors waive all of their operating expenses. It also means that the long-term returns on US bonds may fall below zero because their advisers are not predisposed to offer their services for free. Investors, in response, are poured into equities and have done so using Continue reading →