Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

In this Discussion

Here's a statement of the obvious: The opinions expressed here are those of the participants, not those of the Mutual Fund Observer. We cannot vouch for the accuracy or appropriateness of any of it, though we do encourage civility and good humor.

    Support MFO

  • Donate through PayPal

Fundamentals old Make More/Lose Less portfolio YTD

edited September 2011 in Fund Discussions


I came across a copy of Fundamentals MMLL portfolio in some papers last week and thought I'd run a YTD.

As of 9/6 it was up @ 0.546%.
Not too shabby, I wish I could say the same of my own.



  • Hi matt,

    Thank you. I have all of Fundmentals writes stuck somewhere in this pc. I have not had the time to pull the files for a "look".

  • What is in the portfolio?
  • AARRGGHH !!! Can't find the electronic folder for Fundmental's MMLL funds composition.

    Anyone have the electronic version (saved word doc or ?) that they may post here???

    I will check later tonight or again on Friday.

  • I put fundmentals portfolio into M* when he first came up with it. It has held up pretty well through this volatile market. It was designed to, as he put it, "loose less".

    Here are the returns from his original portfolio, no rebalance. He used to compare returns to the Vanguard balanced so I'll do the same:

    ytd 1m 3m 12m 3y
    vanguard 0.4 0.9 -2.8 10.3 4.5
    loose less 1.2 0.5 -0.9 6.7 8.9
  • edited September 2011
    Hi Accipiter,

    Thanks for ringing my bell. I recalled and found the FA archives link I had in the pc favorites list.

    >>>>>matt, is this the portfolio mix you have on paper ???Posted by: Fundmentals
    Date: November/December 2009
    Subject line: Model portfolio design

    Body of post:

    I am sure many of you have come across the situation of a friend or a family member clueless about investing ask you to help them with a stash of money. The real-life requirements are usually "simple":

    1. "Want your help to make some money. I can lose money all by myself"

    2. "I can put it in the market for 5 years. Can leave it there longer if it is making money but not if it is losing money"

    3. "Don't ask me to do anything more than once a year"

    The following portfolio is designed specifically for people that are not

    (a)expecting to beat the market

    (b)don't want the portfolio to go down much (likely to panic and sell at the bottom if they went down 10% or more)

    (c) would like some decent gains - more than what they can get with money market funds, CDs or even just bond funds without which they will not take the risk of investing at all and

    (d) don't want to fiddle with it more than once a year.

    The Portfolio

    Domestic Equity:
    5% Forester Value (FVALX) - Large Value
    5% Amana Trust Growth (AMAGX) - Large Growth
    5% Queens Road Small Cap Value (QRSVX) - Small Value
    International/Global equity:
    10% Forester Discovery (INTLX) - World Allocation
    10% Matthews Asia Dividend (MAPIX) - Diversified Asia/Pacific
    Alternate investments:
    10% Robeco Long/Short Eq Inv (BPLEX) - Long/short equity
    10% Arbitrage Fund (ARBFX) - Merger/arbitrage
    15% Hussman Total Return (HSTRX) - Conservative allocation
    7.5% Managers Intermediate Govt (MGIDX) - Mortgage securities/Govt
    7.5% PIMCO Total Return D (PTTDX) - Intermediate Investment Grade Bond
    7.5% Weitz Short-Interm Income (WEFIX) - Short-Intermediate Term Investment Grade Bond

    Backtested performance
    If portfolio invested on 1/1/2008, results as of 11/13/2009:
    Total return: +15.05%;
    2008 Performance: -4.79%
    2009 YTD: 20.84%
    Portfolio X-Ray:
    Stocks 52.3%; Bonds 38.1%; Cash 9.6%
    Stocks US 56.00%; International 44.00%
    US equities
    Large cap 27.4%; Mid cap 22.8%; Small Cap 49.8%
    US equities
    Value 36.9%; Blend 53.0%; Growth 10.1%
    International equities
    Europe 24.1%; Pacific 38.5%; Canada 18.9%; Emerging Markets 18.5%
    Taxable 78.70%; Uncategorized 21.30%
    Credit quality High 78.7%; Uncategorized 21.30%
    Duration Medium 20.2% Low 58.5% Uncategorized 21.3%
    Costs: Portfolio average 1.72%

    Portfolio construction notes:

    The portfolio is constructed to solve a basic flaw in traditional portfolio construction. Diversification using high volatility equity funds (even index funds with market volatility) results in deep losses during bear markets as most such equities become correlated and go down together.

    Just depending on bond allocation to reduce losses requires primarily allocation to Treasuries as it is the only type of asset that can be depended on to show negative correlation with equities in bear markets. But unlike in the past, Treasuries starting with the current situation of low interest rates cannot be expected to provide much gains going forward so the portfolio may turn out to be too conservative or too aggressive based on what happens in the market regardless of how much is allocated to Treasuries.

    As a solution, portfolio picks only funds designed with a strategy to reduce/minimize losses during long bear markets and has some capital protection goals in place. The overall volatility is reduced by depending on each fund to reduce its own volatility rather than depend on lack of correlation to reduce the volatility.

    Note that this is not the same thing as picking funds with the highest returns in either bear or bull markets or both. Nor are the returns attributable to some fantastic market timing in picking which stocks to buy and when to sell.

    In fact, most of these funds will likely not consistently appear in the top 10% of their class except occasionally. But all of them will have shown the ability to limit losses by reacting to long-drawn down market conditions and make decent gains in long-drawn up market conditions.

    In other words, the only market timing they will show will be in recognizing long bear markets as in recognizing the difference between 2008 and 2009, not what happens month to month. None of them try to time tops and bottoms.


    Portfolio Requirements:

    1. Capital protection and lack of volatility extremely important. No long periods of losses. No "wait for 10-20 years or more" excuse for losses.

    2. Asymmetric behavior - as much of the upside as possible, as little of the downside as possible

    3. Simple portfolio with high quality no-load funds widely available in the main brokerages

    4. Only annual tune-ups

    5. Total return more important than income

    6. No assumption of bull/bear markets for the portfolio as a whole, no forecasted assumptions of economy or any other indicators, doom/gloom predictions, etc.

    Concrete requirements:

    1. Not more than 12 funds.

    2. No single fund with less than 5% allocation or more than 15% allocation

    3. Portfolio must be diversified but not necessary to cover all asset/fund classes. Only asset classes that have shown consistent returns without long loss periods and small drawdowns. Riskier assets only within risk-managed funds.

    4. No assumptions of correlation or lack of correlation between asset classes going forward but no gross overlaps between funds. Some overlap is fine.

    Screening criterion for funds:

    1. No-load, ER less than or equal to category average, been in existence for at least 5 years.

    2. No losses in 3, 5 or 10 yr (if available) rolling periods (amazing how many asset classes or funds drop out here)

    3. Manager has been around for at least the category average

    4. Minimum initial purchase not more than $3000 (i.e., minimum not more than $60k portfolio)

    5. Best 3 month performance must be better than worst 3 month performance over its lifetime (amazing how many funds you lose with this criterion)

    6. Best volatility-adjusted performance (3-yr and 5-yr) in class, not necessarily the best returns.

    7. Volatility of each fund on its own must not exceed 10% of total stock market index, total bond index or balanced index as appropriate.

    8. Lowest volatility to break a tie all else remaining the same.

    9. No bias towards active or passive funds as long as the above criterion are satisfied

    10. Allocation percentages based entirely on relative volatility-adjusted returns (3-yr and 5-yr), no ad hoc allocation decisions. Individual fund notes:

    end of Part 1

  • Part 2, continued from above, Fundmentals portfolio offering

    FVALX, INTLX: These Forester funds have demonstrated the ability to limit losses by going to cash when conditions so indicate and they do so without worrying about whether they will fully participate in the recovery. Hence they fit the goals of this portfolio well. Forester was so successful with this simple strategy that FVALX became the only equity fund to have positive (albeit close to zero) returns in 2008.

    Unfortunately, this brings in people who look at the rankings, see this fund at the top in 2008 and invest and get disappointed when the fund lags in a bull market.

    This fund is chosen for the very strategy (that was incidentally vindicated in 2008) with the full knowledge that it will not necessarily be anywhere near the top in bull markets or even beat the index.

    Alternative to FVALX is Amana Income AMANX which does not provide as much downside protection but has done well using a very conservative approach in value investing and keeping the volatility low but it will be slightly more volatile than FVALX. Another slightly higher volatile alternative is Yacktman fund (YACKX)

    Alternative to INTLX is Sextant International SSIFX (coincidentally managed by the manager of AMANX) for similar reasons.

    AMAGX: A very well managed Large Cap growth fund with a long history of good performance. The downside protection is also reasonable within its class even though there does not appear to be any capital protection strategies in place.

    QRSVX: Not a well known fund but is one of the very few funds that is widely available without a transaction fee, has at least a 5 year history and has managed to limit downside in the bear market in the small cap category. The volatility is also kept low.

    A better known substitute is Royce Special Equity (RYSEX) if available without a transaction fee. Newer Intrepid Small Cap (ICMAX) has done very well although its short history may be a concern as well as Pinnacle Value (PVFIX) if available without a transaction fee. Both ICMAX and PVFIX are low volatility funds and have capital protection as a goal of the fund to fit the goals of this portfolio well.

    MAPIX: The only selection without a 5 year history but comes with a very strong pedigree from Matthews Asia that specializes in Asian funds. This fund has extremely low volatility, even lower than most domestic equities and has managed to deliver very good total returns with a combination of stocks, convertibles and preferred shares.

    Alternatives would be either Matthews Asia Pacific (MPACX) at higher volatility with good downside protection or Matthews Asian Growth and Income (MACSX) at lower volatility but can potentially lose more money in bear markets.

    BPLEX: An alternative investment fund that tries to get good returns in both bull and bear markets. A long-short fund that can be mistaken for another performance chasing choice because of its recent performance. But this would be a good choice even if its performance in 2009 was just average or even below average.

    Looking under the hood shows this fund to be quite different from other long-short funds that try to use both long and short depending on the stock valuations. This fund seems to switch between a primarily long fund (but with short positions to hedge) with good stock selection or a primarily short fund (with long positions to hedge) depending on the macro market conditions thus minimizing individual stock market timing risks.

    This is not different in strategy from Forester's philosophy except that its uses shorting rather than just go to cash and uses small caps rather than large caps.

    So it does very well in longer bear or bull market years and lags during transitions but without losing much money. Unfortunately, none of the alternatives for this fund come anywhere close to it in performance as they primarily seem to depend on picking the right stocks to go long or short across all conditions rather than acting like a good long fund or a good hedged fund depending on macro conditions. It is a unique standout.

    ARBFX: Another alternative investment fund which depends on arbitraging mergers and acquisitions by buying a company that is being acquired and often shorting the company acquiring. The risks for such funds come only if the M&A does not go through. The earlier you get on as soon as an M&A is announced, the riskier. This fund takes very little risks by waiting to get on and arbitraging just the last few months before an M&A. This keeps the volatility very low and the gains low as well.

    An alternative is the similar Merger fund (MERFX) which has a disadvantage because of its size and so may not be able to move quickly in and out.

    HSTRX: Hussman's conservative allocation fund is managed in a risk-managed fashion where the portfolio is continually and pro-actively positioned to address the current risk evaluation of the market. Unlike his strategic growth fund, this fund does not take any significant bets on equities and so any incorrect decisions in his strategy does not have as much of a downside impact unlike the other fund. This has allowed HSTRX to show very consistent and impressive performance over a long period of time with very little volatility.

    MGIDX: Intermediate duration mortgage securities fund that manages to keep volatility low with good performance and uses shorting/options to achieve this. The ability to short or use options will make this fund able to provide downside protection and manage credit and interest risks, a good idea when mortgage rates are likely to rise in the future.

    Alternative is PTMDX - PIMCO Mortgage-Backed Securities D which shorts even more aggressively.

    PGNDX: A GNMA fund that manages risk via shorting while preserving the upside of a GNMA fund. Good due to the same reasons as MGIDX above.

    Alternatives are non-shorting GNMA funds such as USGNX from USAA, VFIIX from Vanguard or BGNMX from American Century which may have more losses if the mortgage rates were to rise rapidly.

    PTTDX: An intermediate investment grade fund that also manages risk via shorting and useful in an expected interest rate rising environment in the future. Low volatility.

    Alternatives are non-shorting funds with low volatility THOPX Thompson Plumb Bond or CPTNX American Century Government Bond Inv WEFIX: A fund with the ability to move between short and intermediate durations based on market conditions and hence able to take advantage of the conditions better than a strictly short term fund. Does not use shorting.

    Alternatives are USSBX from USAA, WEFIX Weitz Short-Intermediate Income, VFISX Vanguard Short-Term Treasury, PLDDX PIMCO Low Duration D. The last one from PIMCO does use shorting
Sign In or Register to comment.