December 1, 2016

By David Snowball

What a busy month.

On Monday, November 21, four U.S. stock indexes all reached all-time highs: the S&P 500, Dow, Russell 2000 and Nasdaq; it might be that the S&P Midcap 400 did the same, but that’s less clear to me. That feat was last accomplished on December 31, 1999. The coincidence led Chip, our estimable tech director, to launch into a spirited rendition of Prince’s “1999”:

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
Forgive me if it goes astray
But when I woke up this mornin’
Could of sworn it was judgment day

The sky was all purple
There were people runnin’ everywhere
Tryin’ to run from the destruction
You know I didn’t even care

‘Cause they say two thousand zero zero
Party over, oops out of time
So tonight I’m gonna party like it’s 1999

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
So sue me if I go too fast
But life is just a party
And parties weren’t meant to last

Continue reading →

Behind Door Number Two Is?

By Edward A. Studzinski


“I and my public understand each other very well: it does not hear what I say, and I don’t say what it wants to hear.”

Karl Kraus

I recently had occasion to read proxy materials for San Juan Basin Royalty Trust. The issue involved an attempt to remove the current trustee, Compass Bank, the successor to TexasBank, which had been acquired by Compass, with Southwest Bank. The story is a recurring one in banking – a smaller local institution gets gobbled up by Continue reading →

Trump, Bonds, and Inflation

By Leigh Walzer

(Making Your Portfolio Great Again)

The election 3 weeks ago ushered in a new investment paradigm.  To Make America Great Again, President-elect Trump is committed to lower taxes, run large deficits, and spent trillions on infrastructure. Trump is no friend of the bond market, and judging by the steep decline in bond prices over the following week, the feeling is mutual. Bondholders took note when Mr. Trump bragged on CNBC back in May that he had a lot of experience negotiating with bondholders which he could bring to bear in addressing the government’s debts.  But they were probably more spooked by the subsequent clarification that the government would never default because it could Continue reading →

A Low Cost Alternative To One USAA Managed Portfolio

By Charles Boccadoro

USAA was founded in San Antonio, Texas, when 25 Army officers decided to insure each other’s automobiles. The year was 1922. Its original name: United States Army Automobile Association. Today, USAA stands for United Services Automobile Association – a Fortune 500 diversified financial services organization that caters to US military personnel and families. It has more than 11 million members. Its chairman is retired General Lester Lyles. Why choose to invest with USAA? “Military Values: Our disciplined approach stems from our military values of service, loyalty, honesty and integrity.” Continue reading →

The three coolest studies of 2016

By David Snowball

There are scholars whose entire lives are consumed by the need to study mutual funds. Not “study” in the carefree way I do or the deeply-tainted way that marketing-driven organizations do, but “study” with considerable rigor, sophisticated tools and a willingness to struggle with complexity.

While much of the content of these studies is inaccessible to Continue reading →

great horned owl

Tributary Small Company (FOSCX), December 2016

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund pursues long-term capital appreciation. They invest in a portfolio of 60-70 small-cap stocks, mostly domiciled in the U.S. Their fundamental approach is value-oriented and broadly diversified across economic sectors. In general, each position in the portfolio starts out about equally weighted; 50 of the 65 current holdings are each between 1-2% of the portfolio. They hold minimal cash, currently about 4%. Portfolio turnover is in the range of 25-35%, far below the small cap average.   Continue reading →

What Are You Thankful For?

By Mark Wilson

What Are You Thankful For?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  We get four days off, gather with our family and friends, and prepare and eat (hopefully) good food.  All of this without the extra “stresses” of the 4th of July or (at our house) Christmas.

Once everyone is seated around the dining room table, we wait for my father-in-law to ask the question “Can we go around the table and each share what we are thankful for?”  This is a longstanding tradition and another reason why I enjoy the holiday.  It’s great to hear answers ranging from “our family’s health” and “Uncle Russ has joined us” to “cranberry sauce!” and “the turkey is Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Colin Symons, Symons Value (SAVIX)

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.

Colin Symons manages SAVIX and has managed it since the fund launched in Continue reading →

Prelaunch Alert: Laura Geritz, Grandeur Peak and the Rondure Funds

By David Snowball

When Laura Geritz left Wasatch Advisors in June after a decade with the firm, there was a clear and understandable sense of loss. Ms. Geritz had three public charges:

Wasatch International Opportunities (WAIOX), : a $635 million international small-growth fund. It’s got a five-star rating from Morningstar. Over the past five years, it’s posted higher returns with lower volatility than its Lipper peer group. The estimable Lewis Braham reports Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

You know it’s a bad month for fund registrations when the most interesting thing out there is a bad idea: The ETF Market ETF (TETF). If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “there’s nothing I want more than to be trapped investing in a very limited universe of companies, almost none of whom have enduring competitive advantages,” you can now not only invest there, you can day trade if you want. (sigh) Otherwise, year-end is a slow time in the fund launch world. Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager changes

By Chip

Manager changes come in three varieties: the utterly inconsequential, the individually significant and the broadly worrisome. Inconsequential changes, the vast majority of them, represent the normal tweaking of management teams or the comings-and-goings of competent but undistinguished professionals. Individually significant changes are ones where the manager made a real difference to a fund’s success, and where his or her departure might well disrupt the fund’s prospects. The dismissal of Wellington Management from Voya International Core, for example, substantially changes the fund’s profile and diminishes its short-term attractiveness. Broadly worrisome changes occur when principled managers with distinguished long-term records are dismissed because they’re “out of step” with the market. Quite frequently at the tops of frothy markets, value managers find their services no longer required. GMO famously lost 40% of its assets just before the crash of 2000 vindicated what they’d been doing. This month, the removal of Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly noted

By David Snowball

In a peculiarly peculiar move, Praxis Small Cap (MMSCX) is becoming Praxis Small Cap Index Fund. Praxis might, charitably, be described as “bad” (its five-year record trails its peers by 600 basis points annually) and “expensive” (1.68% with a 5.25% sales load). In an attempt to be less “bad,” they’re giving up active management but remaining expensive (1.13% with a 5.25% sales load). Here’s advice to prospective providers of index funds: if you can’t make it cheap, you’re going to lose. Praxis is attempting to dodge that ugly truth by being not-quite-an-index funds: its benchmark is the S&P SmallCap 600 but “the Fund seeks to avoid companies that are deemed inconsistent with the stewardship investing core values. In addition, the Adviser uses optimization techniques to Continue reading →