February 1, 2019

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Please join me in bidding a fond adieu to January. It was a month in which our increasingly unstable global climate manifested itself in record-breaking cold and snow. Davenport, Iowa, my adopted hometown, saw the lowest temperature (-33, six degrees colder than the old record) and coldest wind chill readings (-54) in its recorded history. Despite having no precipitation in the first eleven days of January, it still managed 30.2” of snow by month’s end, the most since record-keeping began in 1884. Local drivers responded Continue reading →

Problems, What Problems?

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Life is a predicament which precedes death.”

  Henry James

After a year in which most investors saw unrealized losses in their fund investments due to a very volatile December, probably half of those unrealized losses have been made up through the end of January 2019. This reinforces again the value of being a long-term investor, when you are comfortable with the investment philosophy, strategy, and personnel implementing same at a fund.

But do you Continue reading →

The long and short of a defensive fund

By David Snowball

People bandy about the phrase “long/short fund” as if it had meaning. It does not. It is, instead, a catch-all term  that includes funds with very different objectives and very different strategies, including some funds that do no shorting at all. Some short individual stocks, some short groups of stocks through ETFs and others short entire markets. Some are market-neutral, some are permanently defensive, some switch between defense and offense, others are always playing offense.

A 2013 analysis of all funds listed as “long/short”  in Morningstar’s database by Long Short Advisors found “just 25 funds that are Continue reading →

Using MFO’s Bear Market Rating To Help Contain Portfolio Drawdown

By Charles Boccadoro

“Never risk what you have and need

for what we don’t have and don’t need.”

Warren Buffett

December reminded us of how quickly the music can stop. The SP500 fell 9% turning a modest annual gain into a loss. Those hugging the S&P were the lucky ones.

Touchstone Small Company (SAGWX) was off 13.4%. Invesco S&P SmallCap Health Care ETF (PSCH) was off 16.1%. Both are dual MFO Great Owl and Honor Roll funds, which means they have a track record of top quintile risk adjusted and absolute return versus peers.

Other notables: Parnassus Endeavor (PARWX) off 13.8%, Hotchkis & Wiley Mid-Cap Value (HWMIX) off 15.2%, and Miller Opportunity (LMOPX) off Continue reading →

Living a Rewarding Retirement: The Importance of Time

By Robert Cochran

It’s minus 3 degrees this morning, with a thick blanket of snow on the ground, and winds are making it feel like 20 below.  There is little compelling reason for this retired guy to hustle around and get outdoors, so it’s as good a time as any to think about the so-called market meltdown of 2018 and offer some perspective on what is really important for individual investors to consider.

A quick look at my Schwab accounts tells me that since January 1, 2018, through January 18 of this year (12 ½ months), my total portfolio value is Continue reading →

a dirt road with trees alongside

Grandeur Peak reopening: the limited time offer

By David Snowball

On January 14, 2019, Grandeur Peak announced the partial reopening of four of their funds: Global Opportunities, International Opportunities, Global Reach and Emerging Markets Opportunities funds. The first three had been hard closed, while the last had been soft-closed. Under the terms of the reopening, the funds are open to additional purchases by existing shareholders but also to new shareholders willing to purchase the funds directly from Grandeur Peak Funds at www.grandeurpeakglobal.com.  Financial advisors and retirement plans with clients in one of these funds will be able to continue investing in the fund for both existing as well as new clients.

Long-term investors should take this opportunity seriously. Continue reading →

Launch Alert: FPA Flexible Income Fund (FPFIX)

By David Snowball

On December 31, 2018, FPA launched FPA Flexible Income Fund (FPFIX). The fund seeks to provide long-term total return, which includes income and capital appreciation, while considering capital preservation. This marks FPA’s first new bond fund since becoming adviser to FPA New Income (FPNIX) in 1984. Morningstar celebrates New Income for “a strong management, process, and risk/reward profile and has been a safe haven from losses and bond-market excess.” FPA hopes to leverage those virtues by applying them to a fund that has permission, but not the obligation, to follow a modestly more aggressive path.

FPA tends to be the home of absolute Continue reading →

great horned owl

Marshfield Concentrated Opportunity (MRFOX), February 2019

By Dennis Baran

Objective and strategy

MRFOX seeks capital preservation and long-term growth of principal while targeting a pattern of performance that’s at variance with the market, different from it in as many ways as possible, and adds value on a risk-adjusted basis. The managers’ goal of avoiding the “closet index” trap while laying the groundwork for superior performance means

  • owning a thoughtful concentration of approximately 20 stocks
  • holding cash between of 0-25 percent while awaiting well-priced opportunities
  • steering clear of generic “consensus” stocks and
  • being freed from sector and market capitalization constraints

Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Craig Sedmak and Tom Harney, Ladder Select Bond Fund (LSBIX)

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 300 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 a few hundred 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. 

The right answer to almost all investing questions over the Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in registration

By David Snowball

Just a handful of new funds were registered with the SEC this month, perhaps in response to the disruption caused by the government shutdown which affected the SEC. In any case, we’ve chosen to highlight just two funds from that list; both are guided by first-rate managers whose long careers and other funds should engender considerable interest and respect. Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager changes, January 2019

By Chip

There were four notable stories among the 62 sets of manager changes this month. First, the estimable Jenny Jones has announced her plans to retire from Schroder Investment Management where she’s successfully shepherded small cap portfolios for 17 years. That run capped a distinguished 38 year investing career; her departure has led Morningstar to place her funds’ Silver rating “under review.” That’s a normal and healthy development. We wish her great joy in life’s next adventure. Second, Mark Oelschlager is departing Oak Associates on short notice after a stint as co-CIO and portfolio manager. He’s also the son of the firm’s founder, lead manager and CIO, James Oelschlager. The younger Mr. Oelschlager once seemed poised to be the firm’s next leader; now he’s “pursuing other opportunities.” The response when I reached out to the firm was … uh, terse. That seems odd and potentially troubling, given the younger Mr. O’s preference for a more risk-conscious style than his senior’s. Third, Mark Vaselkiv is stepping away from managing T. Rowe Price’s high-yield funds. In general, Price manages these transitions exceptionally well. Finally, Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


Effective January 1, 2019, Castle Financial & Retirement Planning Associates discontinued its voluntary fee waiver for All-Terrain Opportunity (TERIX) and will not seek reimbursement of any fees it voluntarily waived.

Welcome back to our readers employed by the Securities and Exchange Commission! The whole “shut the government down” thing struck me as unproductive lunacy and ended up with a number of our readers (most visibly the SEC folks) furloughed. Continue reading →