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

Blackrock Systematic Multi Strategy Fund (BAMBX)

I purchased this fund in october. I was torn between buying TMSRX and BAMBX. Im glad I chose BAMBX. So far it seems to be performing better. My purpose of buying this fund is to outperform a savings account or CD. I got very tired of making no money on my cash.


  • Do not equate something like this with a cash alternative; it's not (though a very good fund). I made a similar decision to purchase Merger fund in June. One of the steady but boring funds, and I'm down 2.6% since the fund took a pretty atypical dive just after my buy. Not the end of the world by any means but a reminder that only cash is cash.
  • BAMBX has SD of 4.6% (high). Turnover of 500% is high, so is ER. About 11% in stocks, rest in bonds & others (probably convertible). Don't treat is as cash or CD proxy.
  • Another spaghetti bowl of who knows what

    High fees, return free risk?

    Keep your safe money safe. Not worth the extra few nickels....

    Baseball Fan
  • edited November 2021
    However, yesterday, when all the major indices lost more than 2%, I couldn't help but notice that BAMBX was up 0.2%, and YTD the fund is up a nice 4.3%. Also, three and five year total returns are a pleasing 5.7% and 5.5%, respectively.

    Maybe it's not a cash proxy, but not too shabby for a "spaghetti bowl of who knows what".

  • So you're going to put your monies into something like that based on one day's performance?

    My spaghetti bowl statement stands, who knows how any of those positions interact with each other and at what time. It's an obvious guess by the fund managers as to what the tea leaves excuse me models are telling them what will happen going forward.

    Your money, do with it what you feel is best for you. This fund is not for me. Been burned by iqdax,. Learning my lesson.

    I wish you good investing and good luck @fred495

    Baseball Fan
  • edited November 2021
    (Lipper* generally quotes from the manager’s description):

    “The Fund seeks total return comprised of current income and capital appreciation. BlackRock will invest the Funds assets through a diversified set of strategies that seek to provide total return comprised of current income and capital appreciation in both periods of strong returns and periods of market stress.”

    77% in bonds likely reason the fund was up a bit yesterday. Longer dated high quality bonds were up sharply.

    Since the asset breakdown on Lipper adds up to 100%, it’s unlikely they’re doing much (if any) shorting - which generally skews the total to something over 100.

    I tend to like Blackrock. Rock Rieder, one of their fixed income people, talks a good game. Bright and articulate.

    No fund is a “spaghetti bowl” if one is willing to invest the time and energy into exploring the contents. In the case of TMSRX I’ve not done the due diligence I probably should have, trusting in TRP whom I’ve been with for about 30 years to run that complex fund on the straight and narrow and not put my money at excessive risk. But that’s laziness on my part - not dereliction on theirs.

    @Baseball_Fan - Could you share a little about your current investment approach? What do you like in addition to near 0% cash? I recall about 6-7 months ago you were buying Home Depot and also looking for inflation hedges. The problem with those inflation hedges is that a lot of other people caught the scent in the wind 6 months ago and chased. It’s a diverse lot. Some areas (certain industrial metals) are doing fine and may not be overpriced. But it’s a rough playing field as evidenced by the more than 6% drop in oil yesterday.

    *Link to BAMBX Lipper profile:
  • edited November 2021

    So you're going to put your monies into something like that based on one day's performance? [...]

    Your money, do with it what you feel is best for you. This fund is not for me. Been burned by iqdax,. Learning my lesson.

    I wish you good investing and good luck @fred495

    Baseball Fan

    What am I missing? There was nothing in my comment about BAMBX's performance record over the past five years that would indicate I was going to put my money into this fund. I would certainly never purchase any fund based on one day's performance.

    Seems you misunderstood the purpose of my posting, Fan.

    Good luck,

  • I'm inclined to agree with @Baseball_Fan that multi-strategy funds are generally a bunch of spaghetti.

    Even if one does understand how each alternative strategy tends to work in isolation and even if one does understand how they interact, IMHO two wildly optimistic assumptions, one still does not have any sense of how they are being allocated/used. A fund saying that it "seeks to provide total return ... in both periods of strong returns and periods of market stress" tells me almost nothing about how it uses those alternative strategies.

    More studying of a fund may not make it any clearer. M* gave DBLTX a "not rated" mark for two years (2014-2016) because "when ... evaluating sophisticated bond strategies like DoubleLine Total Return Bond, publicly available information often does not suffice."

    Yet for most of us peons, public info is all we have to work with. And it's hard to deny that funds like BAMBX are employing sophisticated strategies, bond and other. FWIW, M* decided to change the rating of DBLTX from "not rated" to "neutral" because M* felt it was more informative to say that based on what they knew they could not recommend the fund ("neutral") than to say nothing.

    With respect to the BAMBX's portfolio, Lipper is showing net allocations. According to M*, the fund is comprised of 65% short positions and 165% long, which adds up to 100% of the portfolio, net. A lot of shorting going on.

    At a superficial level (i.e. just looking at the 165/65 figure), this looks like the 130/30 funds of a decade ago on steroids. Except that for BAMBX that's just a summary of its holdings and not its strategy. Here's a M* piece on the 130/30 funds of yesteryear, and the risks they carried.

    TMSRX is net 48% long in fixed income and net 6% short in equity, both of which should have helped its performance Friday, yet it dropped ½%. It's not so easy to figure out what these sorts of funds are doing. Even less so for BAMFX with a 500% turnover rate.
  • edited November 2021
    BAMBX is more akin to a hedged bond fund with a small amount of equity than a 130/30 equity fund. It has a three bucket strategy--long high quality bonds, long strong highly leveraged stocks short weak highly leveraged stocks, and a macro strategy that goes long and short global bonds:
    The "defensive equity" bucket tends to do pretty well in declines as the weakest stocks with high leverage tend to fair very poorly in declines while strong highly leveraged stocks do better. The managers favor highly leveraged companies on both the long and short side as they tend to have the highest dispersion in returns so that the worst do much worse than the best during downturns while the best highly levered companies hold their own during upturns. It's a complex strategy admittedly.
  • edited November 2021
    FYI: For those who don't have a subscription to Barron's, here is the link to the complete fund profile of BAMBX that was written by Lewis Braham and published in November of 2020:

  • edited November 2021

    Thanks for the link.
    The article provides important information regarding the fund's strategy and its upside/downside ratios.
    Since many alternative funds have complex strategies and high costs, I avoid this category.
  • edited November 2021
    Most of us in here do not understand what they refer to as the Black Box of most Alt Funds. This 'Box' refers to the use of Derivatives which are a complex investment used by the sophisticated PM's and traders to hedge out risk, etc I've seen too many investments blown up by the use of Derivatives...
    When I teach my sales team how to approach comparing Hedge/Alt products...we ask about the Black Box or what's under the hood? Most FA's get turned off by the word due to past bad experiences. I'm not sure which of these products use them but it's worth asking.
  • edited November 2021
    fred495 said:

    FYI: For those who don't have a subscription to Barron's, here is the link to the complete fund profile of BAMBX that was written by Lewis Braham and published in November of 2020:


    Thanks Fred. Awesome piece of writing by Lewis.

    The fund? Sounds more like lasagna - a layered approach.
  • edited November 2021
    “It's not so easy to figure out what these sorts of funds are doing.”

    Agreed, it’s very difficult to get “under the hood” of a fund like this. But, if anyone here can, it’s probably @msf -:) With TMSRX’s meager low single digit returns (and apparently many fleeing for greener pastures) I’m not too worried about the degree of risk they’re assuming. If the fund were cranking out 15% annual, I wouldn’t own it. That would be completely out of character with its stated purpose and the risk profile Price has established for it.

    “TMSRX is net 48% long in fixed income and net 6% short in equity, both of which should have helped its performance Friday, yet it dropped ½%.”

    Not so fast. There are 5 different investment approaches outlined and utilized by the fund. You’ve mentioned 2 or 3. And Friday may have been an aberration for a number of reasons, including very thin trading in the U.S. plus the fact that many international exchanges had suffered severe losses before the U.S. even opened.

    Let’s look at how some some common hedges fared Friday. Real Estate and Utilities both were off 2% or more - despite falling rates. Commodities / metals fell in sync with equities. Long bonds prospered - but do you want to own a lot of those? Furthermore, fixed income need not consist of “long only ” bonds. Several of Price’s allocation funds utilize its Dynamic Income fund which tends to move opposite the direction of typical bonds. The investor class, RPIEX, actually lost .82% percent Friday.

    Let’s give TMSRX another day or two to prove itself - assuming Friday was the beginning of something worse. The benefits of a fund like this don’t always kick-in on day 1 of a broad market selloff. If folks aren’t comfortable with these types of funds, that’s fine. There are other ways to hedge risk, including building cash. I will tell you I work very hard to run a hedged portfolio, including about 5% currently in TAIL - Yet TMSRX did better than I did Friday.
  • Derivatives involves bets on both direction and time. So, one can be right about direction but wrong about the timeframe and results would be poor, and so on. The other thing is that assumptions underlying derivatives-based portfolios may unravel during market turmoil or fast markets. The so called market neutral funds may just not be that.

    In the bygone era, I did hold a 130-30 long-short fund for a while. My conclusion was that results were similar to moderate-allocation funds but were achieved with high ER.
  • Apparently I didn't communicate well. I was trying to point out that one can't infer much from percentages of long and short, let alone net allocation percentages, for much but vanilla funds.

    So in observing that BAMBX was 165/65, which superficially looks reminiscent of 130/30 funds, I should have emphasized "superficially". Strategy matters a lot.

    In market neutral funds, shorts roughly balance the longs (as in BAMBX, where the equity portion is 53/43 long/short). Market neutral funds use shorts to tamp down volatility. OTOH, funds that are net long (~100%) in the market while shorting generally are using the shorts aggressively as a source of cash to add to their long positions.

    Likewise, my observation that TMSRX lost money on Friday despite its substantially long bond position (and insignificantly short equity position) was a response to the speculation that "77% in bonds likely reason [BAMBX] was up a bit yesterday".

    If 77% in bonds helped BAMBX, wouldn't 48% in bonds similarly have helped TMSRX? Not last Friday. Often one can't glean much from net allocations. Especially day to day.

    Regarding TMSRX, it currently uses ten different strategies. At least that's how TRP enumerates them:
    T. Rowe Price is continuously researching new strategies that may be employed at any time. The current strategies used as components of the fund’s overall portfolio are as follows:
    Macro and Absolute Return Strategy ...
    Fixed Income Absolute Return Strategy ...
    Equity Research Long/Short Strategy ...
    Quantitative Equity Long/Short Strategy ...
    Volatility Relative Value Strategy ...
    Style Premia Strategy ...
    Dynamic Global FX ...
    Dynamic Credit ...
    Global Stock ...
    Sector Strategies ...
    Each of the strategies is constructed using its own specific investment process ...
    Fund prospectus.

    That's just the strategies. Tactics seem to include buying and selling almost anything under the sun. And it's hard to tell what the fund is "thinking".
  • edited November 2021
    @msf - I thought you communicated well. I appreciated your break-down of TMSRX’s long / short positioning and your correction of my faulty assumptions re BAMBX. I took exception only to your suggestion that TMSRX’s -.47% return Friday represented much of anything.

    - First, the long/short portfolio’s’ contribution to the day’s result is dependent on the particular securities being held long or shorted on a given day. Not all stock were down Friday. And a 6% short on equities isn’t going to help much if they’re long the other 94%.

    - The 48% long “fixed income” does not mean they were long longer-dated U.S. treasury bonds - which benefited from flight to quality. Likely that includes many other types of credit. Quite conceivably, very short dated treasury notes are being used to some extent as cash proxies. And if a portion of fixed income is allocated to “dynamic credit” like RPIEX (suggested by the list of strategies) it would have worked against them on a day when rates fell.

    - Friday appears an aberration in terms of how different asset classes behaved in relation to one another. A good day to be in high quality bonds - especially at the longer end. Not much else worked - save dedicated inverse funds.
  • edited November 2021
    Thanks, guys. Good discussion, very educational, too.

    While I don't own nor plan to buy BAMBX or TMSRX, I will put BAMBX on my watchlist for future reference. Certainly BAMBX's performance since the new team took over is quite good, especially impressive is the fact that during last year's market crash the fund lost only 2.7% in March, and actually had a small gain in February.

    Thanks, again.

  • +1 fred Yes the -2.23% return in 1Q 2020 is a big factor for me-better than BBBMX DLSNX and MASNX "safer havens" that blew up on me then !
  • @hank - Aside from a minor nit, I agree with you. Though a fund that's 94% long and 6% short is net 88% long. TSMRX (equity) is 31.74% long, 37.54% short, for a small net negative position of -5.80%.

    What you wrote about the quality of bonds being what matters tends to weaken the idea the BAMBX made money on Friday basically because it was in bonds. Especially with these funky funds, you can't tell much from their allocations alone.

    Here's an interesting comparison. Two funds with very similar allocations, both across asset classes and by bond ratings:

    Asset allocations (fund 1 vs fund 2):
    US equity:       11.28% vs. 10.32%
    Foreign equity:-0.70% vs. 0.90%
    Fixed income: 77.38% vs. 82.64%
    Other:             0.00% vs 0.04%
    Cash:             9.90% vs 4.72%
    Not classified: 2.14% vs. 1.38%

    Viewed from the perspective of equity and debt (fixed income + cash), the two sets of allocations are close together. In addition, while both funds' equity lean toward value, fund 1 has a lower average market cap. Lower market cap stocks tended to do worse on Friday. (Source: morningstar home page, with a style box currently showing Friday's returns for each style.)

    Bond allocations (fund 1 vs. fund 2)
    AAA: 31.6% vs. 33.5%
    AA:  1.4% vs. 4.21%
    A:   12.9% vs 12.3%
    BBB: 13.9% vs. 16.4%
    BB:  19.7% vs. 16.10%
    B:   15.0% vs. 13.0%
    Below B: 0.9% vs 3.55%
    Not Rated: 4.5% vs 1.0%

    Fund 1 has less in IG bonds (BBB and above) in nearly every category, and it has more BB and B junk bonds. Given Friday's flight to quality, as with the equity side this suggests that fund 1 would likely have done worse than fund 2.

    Overall the differences are minor. The first fund, not surprisingly given the 77% allocation to bonds, is BAMBX. Lewis wrote in Barron's that the core of the fund (about half) is high quality bonds. M*'s take is a little different, it characterizes this part of the portfolio as multisector. 35% junk does lend support to that. So I compared this fund to a multisector bond fund.

    Some multisector funds went up on Friday, some down. For a good allocation match, I used RPSIX as the second fund. A nearly plain vanilla multisector fund with a dash of equities. It went down 0.2% Friday, while BAMBX went up 0.2%.

    Bond funds go up, bond funds go down, even with the same credit quality allocations, even with the same 10% net allocation in equities. Especially on any given day. It doesn't seem to matter so much that BAMBX is 77% in bonds as what those bonds are (type and duration).

    With this I'm just echoing what you wrote:
    Likely that includes many other types of credit. Quite conceivably, very short dated treasury
    Sources (all portfolio figures are as of Sept 30, 2021):
    - for asset allocations, the funds' respective M* portfolio pages.
    - for credit quality allocations: M* portfolio page for RPSIX; Blackrock's fund fact sheet for BAMBX.
  • Very good post, @msf.
  • :-)

    We may get to see the other side of the coin today.
  • This Schmeissing keeps up, the pasta dish on the menu (BAMBX) with some home cooked Marinara might be on the Specials list this week

    Baseball Fan
  • edited November 2021
    msf said:

    We may get to see the other side of the coin today.

    Speaking of coin-flips, I bought some TAIL couple weeks ago. “Tails are Up.” - today, anyhow.:)

    Thanks @msf for all that digging. I’m sure it’s helped many make a more informed decision.
Sign In or Register to comment.