December 1, 2018

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Winter is coming.

I’m so thankful.

Traditionally, year’s end has been a slower time. The growing season has ended, and both the farm fields and the sports fields lie mostly empty in this part of the country. Going out at night is just a touch less attractive when “night” settled in at about 4:30. New projects and wild ambitions are set aside for the new year. Traditionally, it’s a season for festivals and celebrations, only occasionally draped in religious garb. In the northern hemisphere, every religion and every culture seems to have reached the same conclusion: it’s cold, it’s dark, it’s time to get together!

Too, it’s time to reflect on the year just past and all the things we have to be thankful for. (Yes, I was awake pretty much all year in 2018, but that doesn’t change my sense of Continue reading →

Living a Rewarding Retirement

By Robert Cochran

“Some people make more than a career out of their work. They make a difference.”

It’s been more than a year since I retired from my position as Portfolio Manager and Chief Compliance Officer with PDS Planning in Columbus, Ohio. One of the many retirement cards I received from clients and colleagues contained the above quote. We never talked specifically about “making a difference” while I was working. However, as I look back over 30-plus years, we certainly did make a difference for many, many individuals and families who entrusted us with their dreams.

People can choose to make a difference in any Continue reading →

Emerging markets value: a rare ray of sunshine from GMO’s strategists

By David Snowball

GMO monthly issues their “7‐Year Asset Class Real Return Forecasts” for 10 – and, beginning this month, 11 – asset classes. Their method is fairly simple: assume that things – P/E ratio, profit margin, sales growth and dividend yield – will revert to “normal” over the next 5-7 years and sketch the line from here to there. The “real” part is that you deduct the effect of inflation from the resulting “nominal” returns.

Several scholars have examined their predictive validity and found it to be pretty robust. One, examining projections from 2000-2010 then comparing them with Vanguard index funds concluded Continue reading →

Rolling Out The New Data

By Charles Boccadoro

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent,

intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Our big MFO Premium upgrade, as described in last month’s commentary, went live on 9 November. Most obvious are the expanded evaluation periods, which include year-to-date (YTD) and latest month performance metrics. In the days ahead, subscribers will see many new parameters from our expanded database, as was evidenced today with the rolled-out of an Interval Funds screening flag in the MultiSearch tool.

The folks at Gaia Capital requested we add the screen for this new type of mutual fund. Per Lipper, Interval Funds are a hybrid mutual fund structure that falls Continue reading →

Coal in Your Stocking

By Edward A. Studzinski

Snow on the pines

Thus breaks the power

That splits mountains.

Otaka Gengo Tadeo (one of the forty-seven samurai).

Year-end Musings

So, another month of volatility come and gone. I think back to about this time almost a year ago, when one of my dinner companions at an event in New York was Byron Wien. Byron had just released his famous annual predictions, one of which was that Continue reading →

Of Centaurs and unicorns

By David Snowball

Zeke Ashton never met Brenda Barnes, so far as I can tell. That’s too bad. He had, sometime this fall, his Brenda Barnes Moment. I think he would have enjoyed talking with her about it.

Brenda Barnes was many things but, for the purpose of our story, she was one of the most powerful business leaders in America. She became COO of Pepsi-Cola in 1993 then president and CEO in 1996. Later, as president of Sara Lee, Forbes ranked her as the 8th most powerful woman in the world, just ahead of Oprah Winfrey (2005). That same year, Fortune ranked her third.

But Brenda was not just Continue reading →

Your 2019 funds watchlist: Draft #1

By David Snowball

It is exceedingly unlikely that your best options in the year and years ahead are going to look much like the winners of the past two years. That reflects, in part, the market’s unresolved turmoil and, in part, the fact that the market has been unmoored from reality of late. Commentators fear that “the sugar rush” provided by the Republicans’ indiscriminate tax cut will, at best, fade and, at worst, be followed by a “sugar crash” as the consequences of trillion dollar annual deficits, rising interest costs and global instability begin to hit home.

A quick snip from my most recent newsfeed:

Is Another Market Crash Coming?

The Latest Stock Market Crash Signal Is Blaring Out of Texas

A Market Crash Is Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

Before funds can be offered to the public, they’ve got to be submitted to the SEC which has 70 days to review the application. In general, advisers try to launch just before years end because that allows them to have clean “year to date” and calendar year results to share. That means that funds hopeful of launching by December 30th needed to be filed by October 15th. Since few firms are interested in launching funds in late January or early February, this month’s filings are not-surprisingly thin. On face, the most promising is likely an actively-managed ETF from a team with a strong track record in funds: Virtus Seix Senior Loan ETF.

AB Multi-Manager Select 2060 Fund

AB Multi-Manager Select 2060 Fund will seek highest Continue reading →

great horned owl

Provident Trust Strategy Fund (PROVX), December 2018

By Dennis Baran

Objective and strategy

PROVX seeks long-term growth of capital. As a concentrated, non-diversified, bottom-up, multi-cap core growth equity fund, it aims to exceed the S&P 500 Index over full investment cycles, which are typically five to seven calendar years in length and contain both a 30% advance and a 20% decline.

The managers generally prefer to invest in large and medium capitalization stocks (namely, companies with at least $2 billion in market cap) but may also invest a portion in small capitalization companies.

Provident has the Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager changes, November 2018

By Chip

In the course of a normal month we’ll highlight 60-70 manager changes in equity and allocation funds. We mostly skip bond funds because, frankly, it’s a danged rare fixed income team that’s materially affected by the departure of a single individual. In a really quiet month, 40 funds and ETFs saw partial or complete team changes.

By far the most consequential was the announced departure of Zeke Ashton from Centaur Total Return (TILDX), a fund that he’s managed with discipline, style and success since its inception. The folks at Intrepid Capital continue thinning their management team. We reported Jayme Wiggins departure from Intrepid Endurance and Select last month, Jason Lazarus departs Capital and Income this month.  Intrepid remains among the few firms maintaining an absolute value discipline in Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


In the three months from September through November, 2018, Morningstar registered 199 new funds. As it turns out, 190 of the 199 are additional share classes for existing funds. Think of share classes as marketing games: The American Funds, for example offer 17 share classes with, literally 17 different expense ratios ranging from 0.20% (529F shares) to 1.80% (529C shares). At base, the adviser creates new share classes as they cut distribution deals with various new constituencies.

Only nine, none of which I find Continue reading →