Category Archives: Mutual Fund Commentary

What I’m Thinking

By Charles Lynn Bolin

I put some thought into the following paragraph.  It is not gloom and doom, nor does it paint a rosy picture. 

New cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. have stabilized at 25 thousand cases and 2,000 deaths on a daily basis which, if not improved soon, are terrifying numbers. 

Worldwide, 81% of the closed cases are due Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Eric Cinnamond and Jayme Wiggins, Palm Valley Capital Fund (PVCMX)

By David Snowball

Since the number of funds we can cover in-depth is smaller than the number of funds worthy of in-depth coverage, we’ve decided to offer one or two managers each month the opportunity to make a 200-word pitch to you. That’s about the number of words a slightly-manic elevator companion could share in a minute and a half. In each case, I’ve promised to offer a quick capsule of the fund and a link back to the fund’s site. Other than that, they’ve got 200 words and precisely as much of your time and attention as you’re willing to share. These aren’t endorsements; they’re opportunities to learn more.

Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Grandeur Peak US Stalwarts Institutional (GUSYX)

By David Snowball

On March 19, 2020, Grandeur Peak launched the U.S. Stalwarts (GUSYX) fund, the third of their “alumni funds.” U.S. Stalwarts will invest primarily in U.S. companies with market caps at the time of purchase of $1.5 billion or more. The fund’s first portfolio disclosure reflects those emphases: 84% US and 75% mid- to large-cap stocks.

Grandeur Peak, founded in 2011 by emigres from Wasatch Advisers which is located four miles down Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Matthews Asia Emerging Markets Equity (MEGMX/MIEFX)

By David Snowball

On April 30, Matthews Asia launched its Emerging Markets Equity Fund. In parsing the name, please note that “Asia” modifies “Matthews,” rather than “Emerging Markets.” That is, this will be the first global equity fund in the Matthews lineup. While this is not the first time that Matthews has considered a fund with global reach (Mr. Matthews and Andrew Foster discussed it a decade ago), this is the first time that the Matthews strategy map encompasses the whole 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, Funds in Registration gives you a peek into the new product pipeline. Most funds currently in registration are in a scramble to launch by June 30th with the hope that having a “standard reporting period” to share with investors sooner. Continue reading →

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


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 →

April 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

When I say, “I hope you’re well,” it’s far more than an opening formality.

Did you blink?

If so, you missed it. The Great Bull Market of 2020. In perhaps the shortest-lived bull market in history, the DJIA rebounded by over 21.4% in three days after The (First) Bear Market of 2020. The latter growled from 19 February – 23 March, while the latter charged from 23 – 26 March after which we had a sharp down, a sharp up, a wimpy down and Continue reading →

Rules Based Investing – Rule #4 Pursue Investments Appropriate for the Business Cycle and Long Term Trends

By Charles Lynn Bolin

In this fourth of a six-part series on the Six Rules of Investing, I look at investing according to the business cycle. This article is divided into four sections: 1) The Investment Environment, 2) Assets that do well in stages of the business cycle, 3) February Fund Performance, and 4) My Target Portfolios.

How has your portfolio compared to the market or other portfolios? Does it offer sufficient reward for the risk that you are taking? Chart #1 contains the Continue reading →

The Long and Short of it

By David Snowball

Long-short funds generally position themselves as “the new 60/40,” that is, as funds appropriate as a core holding for a reasonably conservative investor. Their argument is that 60/40 funds work only when both the stock and bond markets are in a relatively good mood. A fund that simultaneously bets against wobbly companies with overvalued stocks and bets in favor of high-quality companies with undervalued ones has the prospect of earning money, or at least minimizing pain, even when markets are behaving poorly.

There are two problems with such funds. First, they Continue reading →

Taking the Polar Plunge

By David Snowball

First Pacific Advisers, the adviser to the FPA funds, has reached an agreement with London-based Polar Capital. Under the agreement, FPA’s International Value and World Value teams – headlined by Pierre Py and Greg Herr – will operate as Phaeacian Partners, an independent subsidiary of Polar Capital. The transition from FPA to Polar would play out over six to nine months.

Phaeacian? Mysterious race, much discussed in Homer’s works. Highly advanced, great seafarers, generally hospitable. Their king was Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Direxion Flight to Safety ETF

By David Snowball

In real estate, it’s all about location.

In investing, it’s all about timing.

On February 5, 2020, which the Dow at 28,807, Direxion launched the Direxion Flight to Safety Strategy ETF (FLYT). The passive fund tracks an index comprised of gold, large-cap utility stocks, and long-dated US Treasury bonds. It rebalances quarterly, with the least volatile component of 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 →

March 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to spring. Meteorological spring, anyway, that brief interval when the Quad Cities are wedged between end of snow and the beginning of flood, between the end of hockey and the start of minor league baseball, between the days when you can’t imagine the end of winter and the ones where you can nearly taste the arrival of spring.

Celebrate it all, since it’s Continue reading →

Snowball’s Indolent Portfolio

By David Snowball

A tradition dating back to the days of FundAlarm was to annually share our portfolios, and reflections on them, with you.

Four rules have governed my portfolio for the past 15 years or so.

  1. I maintain a stock-light asset allocation.

For any goal that’s closer than 10-15 years away, stock investing is speculation. Stocks rise and fall far more dramatically than other investments and, once they’ve fallen, it sometimes feels like they can’t get up. Equity income funds are typically very conservative vehicles, and yet they took four years to regain their October 2007 peaks. International large cap core funds took seven years to reach break-even while domestic large-cap core funds were underwater for five-and-a-half years. The worst-hit categories languished for nine years.

Research conducted by T. Rowe Price and shared here, on several occasions, led me to conclude that I wouldn’t gain much from a portfolio that exceeds 50% stocks. My target allocation is 50% income (half in cash-like investments, half in somewhat riskier ones) and 50% growth (half in firms domiciled in the US and half elsewhere). Based on a review of 70 years of returns (1949-2018), this allocation would typically Continue reading →

Black Swans and Locusts

By Edward A. Studzinski

The typical American of today has lost all the love of liberty that his forefathers had, and all their disgust of emotion, and pride in self-reliance. He is led no longer by Davy Crocketts; he is led by cheer  leaders, press agents, word-mongers, uplifters.

H.L. Mencken, “On Being an American” (1922)

On balance, it is somewhat hard to believe that in a few short weeks, we have gone from the domestic markets hitting new record highs, albeit with a continuing narrowing of breadth, to what is a full blown correction, with the markets now off by more than ten percent. And as we look to Monday, the first trading day in March, the question is have we reached a floor, or is this going to continue on for some time, wiping out performance gains for all of this year and go on to erase all or a substantial part of 2019’s profits.

What triggered the sell off this past Monday, which was a global event? More than likely, it was Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Artisan Select Equity

By David Snowball

On February 28, 2020, Artisan Partners launched Artisan Select Equity Fund (ARTNX / APDNX / APHNX). The fund is managed by Artisan’s Global Value team.

The Global Value team managers are Daniel O’Keefe, Justin Bandy and Michael McKinnon. The senior member of the team is Mr. O’Keefe who joined Artisan from Harris Associates (advisers to the Oakmark funds) in May, 2002. Up until October 2018, Mr. O’Keefe was paired with David Samra on running the International Value and Global Value strategies. They, to put it gently, were awesome. Artisan notes that O’Keefe and Samra “were nominated six times (in 2008, consecutively from 2011-2014 and again in 2016) for Morningstar’s International-Stock Fund Manager of the Year award in the US. Mr. O’Keefe and Mr. Samra won the award for their joint management efforts in 2008 and in 2013 for the management of international-stock funds.” In October 2018, the team was split, with Mr. Samra maintaining custody of Artisan International Value (ARTKX) and Mr. O’Keefe overseeing Artisan Global Value. The funds have outperformed their peers by 4.7% and 4.3%, respectively, since launch. The translation, in both cases, is that the funds have very nearly doubled the returns of their peers over the long-term.

Artisan’s précis of the team’s approach:

The investment team seeks to Continue reading →

Rules Based Investing – Rule #3 Manage Risk First

By Charles Lynn Bolin

In this third of a six part series on the Six Rules of Investing, I look at risks and the ability of the investment environment to withstand shocks. This article is divided into four sections: 1) The Investment Environment, 2) Looking for the “Known Unknown” Risks, 3) Investment Strategy For Uncertain Times, and 4) Funds for Uncertain Times.

In February 2002, Donald Rumsfeld, the then US Secretary of State for Defense, stated at a Defense Department briefing: “There are known knowns. There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.”

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of State for Defense 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 →

February 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Focus, people! Focus!

It’s never wise to focus on just a single trading day, especially one like the last day of January 2020:

Goodness, no. That will surely lead you to all sorts of bad decisions: selling your portfolio, readying Yahoo Finance, rending your garments, drinking a Keystone (or a Natty Bo, a Natty Lite, a Genny Cream…).

God forfend.

One alternative is to focus on stuff that Continue reading →