May 1, 2021

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

The Tenth Year … and the Ninth Inning

Ten years ago this month, we launched the first issue of the Mutual Fund Observer, “a site in the tradition of FundAlarm.” As the antiquated text below notes, FundAlarm was one of the industry’s most independent, critical voices for 15 years, from 1996-2011. I had the privilege of writing for FundAlarm over its last five years. While the publisher and curmudgeon-in-chief Roy Weitz knew that his time was drawing to a close, he and over 100 readers were sure that the mission of FundAlarm – to be a thoughtful voice and unabashed champion of “the little guy” – was not.

And so the Mutual Fund Observer was born. Continue reading →

Chaff from Wheat

By Edward A. Studzinski

“The idea that a nation can tax itself into prosperity is one of the cruelest delusions which has ever befuddled the human mind.”  Winston S. Churchill, speech at the Royal Albert Hall, 21 April 1948

Yesterday I thought this would be a relatively easy piece to write. The Vanguard S&P 500 fund, according to Morningstar, closed out on April 30th with a year-to-date total return of Continue reading →

Hacking through the green wilds

By David Snowball

It’s become increasingly clear that the global climate is becoming dangerous. Google Earth now has a time-lapse feature that allows us to watch changes in the planet – from the disappearance of glaciers to the drying of the Aral sea to the disappearance of Brazilian rainforests – over the past 37 years. The West and Southwest are locked in drought with record-low reservoir levels. Atmospheric CO2 is at its highest level in 650,000 years with the 20 hottest years in recorded history all occurring since 1998.

But you knew that already. Increasingly we (young and old, liberal and conservative, individual and corporation) accept that we’re in Continue reading →

Introducing MFO Premium’s Saved Preferences Feature

By Charles Boccadoro

MultiSearch, our main tool on MFO Premium, outputs nearly 600 columns of fund metrics, ratings, and info. Recent upgrades to this tool have made it easier to navigate, using features as Active Groups, Jump Scroll, and Hover Hints, all demonstrated during our recent webinar. But at the end of the day, users often want to hone in on just the parameters they are interested in, especially if they are downloading to their own data tables or spreadsheets.

Today, we went live with our Saved Preferences feature, which enables users to save up to 10 preferred views to Continue reading →

One Stop Shop Mutual Fund Options With Good Multi-Year Metrics

By Charles Lynn Bolin

One Stop Mutual Funds with Good Multi-Year Metrics (CTFAX, FMSDX, JABAX, PRSIX, RBBAX, TRRIX, VTINX, VWINX)

As I imagine retirement in a few years here, my personal investing goals have been to simplify. I built my Ranking System around MFO Metrics to determine the best funds for a conservative investor nearing retirement considering long-term performance, momentum, consistency, downside volatility, risk-adjusted returns, quality, and income. These funds are in line with my preference to have Continue reading →

A decade on: Artisan Global Value (ARTGX)

By David Snowball

What they do

The managers pursue long-term growth by investing in 30-50 undervalued global stocks.  Generally, they avoid small-cap stocks but can invest up to 30% in emerging and less developed markets. The managers look for four characteristics in their investments:

  1. A high-quality business
  2. With a strong balance sheet
  3. Shareholder-focused management
  4. Selling for less than it’s worth.

The managers can Continue reading →

A decade on: LKCM Balanced (LKBAX)

By David Snowball

What they do

The managers invest in a combination of US blue-chip stocks, investment-grade intermediate-term bonds, convertible securities, and cash. There’s a bit more mid-cap exposure than their peers offer but noticeably less direct international exposure. In general, at least 25% of the portfolio will be bonds. In practice, the fund is generally 70% equities. The portfolio turnover rate is modest, typically Continue reading →

A decade on: Osterweis Strategic Investment (OSTVX)

By David Snowball

What they do

Osterweis starts with a strategic allocation that’s 50% equities and 50% bonds. In bull markets, they can increase the equity exposure to as high as 75%. In bear markets, they can drop it to as low as 25%. Their argument is that “Over long periods of time, we believe a static balanced allocation of 50% equities and 50% fixed income has the potential to provide investors with returns rivaling an equity-only portfolio but with less principal risk, lower volatility, and greater income.” Because they don’t Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager changes, April 2021

By Chip

Each month we track changes to the management teams of actively managed, equity-oriented funds and ETFs. That excludes index funds and most fixed income funds. The index fund exclusion is pretty straightforward: in a passive fund, the managers are interchangeable cogs whose presence or absence is almost always inconsequential to the fund’s performance.

Similarly, most bond fund managers have a very limited ability to add value. Over the past 10 years, for instance, the top-performing Core Bond fund in Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


A Gold medal for T. Rowe Price: Morningstar has upgraded their assessment of T. Rowe Price’s Retirement Series funds to Gold, their highest endorsement. It’s an endorsement we share. Twenty-four of T. Rowe Price’s funds – including many of the retirement date funds – earn our “Great Owl” designation for consistently top-tier risk-adjusted-performance. We have recognized the firm Continue reading →