Category Archives: Briefly Noted

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Guinness Atkinson’s groundbreaking OEF-to-ETF conversion is surging ahead. In early summer, GA filed a plan to convert two of their current funds – the four-star Dividend Builder GAINX and Alternative Energy GAAEX – directly into ETFs. Other firms have launched ETF clones of their funds, and a bunch of strategies that would normally have been launched as funds have instead followed the non-transparent, active ETF route. Guinness was the only firm bold enough to try a switchover mid-flight.

The conversions were slowed by “a thousand thoughtful questions and comments” from the SEC, according to president Jim Atkinson. In the latest round of comments, the agency has asked GA to begin incorporating concrete Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

FPA has filed to launch FPA Queens Road Small Cap Value Fund. As we noted a couple of months ago, Bragg Capital, an adviser to the Queens Road Funds, entered into an agreement with FPA to have FPA take responsibility for marketing the funds. That allowed FPA to leverage their marketing group and allowed Bragg to focus on running two really exceptional funds: Value and Small Cap Value. This partnership is likely a substantial win for all involved, investors and advisors alike.

FPA, meanwhile, will no longer be managing the Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

As of August 13, 2020, SouthernSun Asset Management bought Affiliated Managers Group’s interest in SouthernSun. As a result, SouthernSun is no longer affiliated with AMG; it’s now wholly owned by its employees.

Briefly Noted . . .

AdvisorShares Vice ETF (ACT) has amended its prospectus to allow that “companies that derive at least 50% of their net revenue from the food and beverage industry” are sinful while, at the same time, “the Fund will no longer invest in cannabis or Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

Effective on October 1, 2020, all of the Alpha Architect funds will transition from index funds to actively-managed ones, though the change will likely be undetectable to investors since “the adviser’s methodology will be substantially unchanged from the current approach it uses.” The funds in question are

  • Alpha Architect U.S. Quantitative Value ETF (QVAL)
  • Alpha Architect International Quantitative Value ETF (IVAL)
  • Alpha Architect U.S. Quantitative Momentum ETF (QMOM)
  • Alpha Architect International Quantitative Momentum ETF (IMOM)
  • Alpha Architect Value Momentum Trend ETF (VMOT).

On June 30, Trillium Asset Management was Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Index Funds S&P 500 Equal Weight NoLoad Fund (INDEX, cool ticker) passed its fifth anniversary on April 30, 2020. It’s no secret that traditional US stock indexes are becoming more and more concentrated in just a few mega-cap names. Ten percent of the S&P 500 is invested in just two stocks (Microsoft and Apple) and 20% of the entire index is held in five stocks (adding Amazon, Facebook, and Alphabet). That’s great if you want concentrated exposure, in particular to mega-cap tech.

There’s an alternative: place an equal amount in each of the S&P 500 stocks. In INDEX, for example, Apple is 0.21% of the portfolio rather than 5.09%. The resulting portfolio is Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Chicago Equity Partners Balanced (MBEAX) no more. MBEAX has been a splendid performer that mixed high-quality, larger US stocks (93% mid- to mega-cap) with investment-grade bonds (99.5% BBB or above, at last reading). Effective April 17, 202, it became the AMG GW&K Global Allocation Fund (MBEAX) with a new name, new team, and new discipline. The portfolio shifts from domestic to global in both its equity and bond sleeves.

Investors should treat this as Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Fidelity has disclosed plans to underwrite their money market funds in order to keep their yield from going negative. They have also closed Fidelity Treasury Only Money Market Fund, FIMM Treasury Only Portfolio, and FIMM Treasury Portfolio, which have cumulative $85.5 billion AUM. Fidelity was concerned about the yields on T-bills which, briefly, looked like Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

BlackRock gets bitten: Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal published a TMZ-worthy piece on a scandal involving BlackRock Income Trust (BIT). BIT is a closed-end fund with $750 million in assets and which, in Jason’s judgment, charges “an arm and a leg” for its services. The fund invested $75 million in “a small, privately held movie company, Aviron Capital LLC.” BlackRock underwrote six of Aviron’s seven films that latest of which, After (2019) cast one of the daughter of one of BlackRock fund’s managers in a lead role.

That does not appear to have been a decision triggered solely by the actor’s on-screen abilities. Mr. Zweig reports: Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Effective December 31, 2019, founder Bill Nasgovitz resigned as president of the Heartland Funds and retired from its Board of Directors. He was succeeded, on January 1, 2020, by his son Will.

On December 31, 2019, founder James Oelschlager and his wife Vanita, the owners of Oak Associates, completed the transaction to sell substantially all of their ownership interest to a group led by members of their management team

A quick congratulations to Dennis Baran for being sharp-eyed and active. In December, our Elevator Talk focused on Joe Shaposhnik of the entirely-excellent TCW New America Premier Equities (TGUSX). Dennis, the author of several fine fund profiles for us, was intrigued by what he read, investigated and discovered that while 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 →

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 →

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

Updates

GMO is now urging you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. In a new GMO Insights piece titled “Emerging Market Stocks: Getting Comfortable with the Uncomfortable,” they look at how lackluster emerging market equity returns in recent years have led many to write off the asset class. They note that” value stocks within emerging markets are particularly cheap, trading at their largest discount since December 2001.” Profitably remains solid about EM corporations, despite the obvious headwinds.

Effective October 11, 2019, Inbok Song ceased Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Three advisers are vying for this month’s “they’re doing what? Did I read this right?” award for moves where we were, literally, reading the filings aloud, slowly, to be sure we weren’t missing something.

Nominee #1 BlackRock

BlackRock Focus Growth (MAFOX) will undergo “a reorganization with another BlackRock-advised fund” in the fourth quarter of 2019. In the reorganization, the $1 billion, Continue reading →

Briefly Noted . . .

By David Snowball

Updates

The ETF industry has continued to distinguish itself for its almost laughable me-tooism. The themes of the day are marijuana (ETFMG Alternative Harvest ETF MJ, AdvisorShares Pure Cannabis ETF YOLO, AdvisorShares Vice ETF ACT which splits time between tobacco, pot and alcohol, The Cannabis ETF THCX, Cambria Cannabis ETF TOKE, Amplify Seymour Cannabis ETF CNBS, Cannabis Growth Opportunity Corp CWWBF) and pets (and pet parents). There are even articles now on the top marijuana ETFs for 2019 and the best marijuana ETFs for conservative portfolios. Uhhh … note to conservative investors, (1) the oldest and largest of these ETFs substantially trails the Vanguard Total Stock Market over the past three years yet has triple the volatility and (2) possession of marijuana is still a federal crime. Continue reading →

Around the Isle in Eleven Days

By David Snowball

Chip and I aspire to travel internationally once every two years. Our hope, in part, is to get far away from the noise long enough that we actually manage to unwind. Our ideal trips feature cool sites, the opportunity to sit and talk with people, and one outstanding meal a day. Two years ago that took place in Scotland, this year Ireland, and two years hence, Italy. Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

“At a special meeting held on June 7, 2019, shareholders of Nuveen High Income Bond Fund did not approve the proposed reorganization of the Fund into TIAA-CREF High-Yield Fund that was previously approved by the Board of Directors of the Fund in December 2018 … the Board will review and take such action as it deems to be in the best interests of the Fund, including continuing to operate the Fund as described in the prospectus, liquidating the Fund, or such other options the Board may consider. Fund shareholders will be notified when the Board approves a course of action for the Fund.”

Shareholder democracy in action! The shareholders say “no” and Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

The Balter Invenomic Fund (BIVIX) is in the process of shedding Balter. As a practical matter, that will translate to a name change, Invenomic Fund, and little more. BIVIX is, as we noted in our May 2019 profile, an exceptionally strong performer with steady asset growth.  The manager is both talented and self-assured, so I’m not particularly concerned though I am curious. The proxy document offers this somewhat cryptic explanation for the change:

BLA (i.e., Balter Liquid Alts) informed the Board that it was making this request because it is currently exiting the investment advisory business due to uncertainty involving a “seed investor” which could potentially affect its ability to provide services to the Fund and other funds in the future. BLA believes that this transition is in the best interest of the Fund and its shareholders as it will provide continuity for the Fund and create a more direct relationship between shareholders and Invenomic. The seed investor currently holds a non-voting equity interest in BLA and initially contributed seed capital for the Fund. 

Continue reading →