October 1, 2020

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Welcome to autumn. It’s a season of such russet-gold glory that even Albert Camus (remember him from The Stranger and The Plague?) was forced to surrender: “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.” It’s the time of apples and cinnamon, of drives through the Wisconsin countryside, and of gardens turning slowly to their rest.

Well, short drives through the Wisconsin countryside, anyway. Rather than the leisurely two-day circuit of western Wisconsin’s creameries, breweries (a nod to New Glarus), and orchards, I’ll mask-up and dart north to Gays Mills where I’ll try not to surrender entirely to the call of the orchards. You’d be amazed at the variety of flavors found in apples; there are about 200 varieties grown in the US, with the average grocery store stocking just a half dozen (including that flavorless favorite, Red Delicious). October is the month for Haralson and Continue reading →

Narrowing the Shopping List to DRSK, GAVAX, HSTRX, and TMSRX

By Charles Lynn Bolin

One of the questions that I am sometimes asked is why do I own so many funds? The answer is that I have a dual-income family with different employer sponsors, different types of tax-advantaged accounts, brokerage accounts, and that I like to set aside a portion of my assets to invest according to the business cycle and trends. With Mutual Fund Observer, computers, and the internet, it is no more difficult or costly to manage 20 or more funds than it is 5.

I identified in Flexible Portfolio Funds With High Risk-Adjusted Returns that KL Allocation (GAVAX), a Flexible Portfolio Fund, is one Continue reading →

great horned owl

Seven Canyons World Innovators Fund (WAGTX), October 2020

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

The fund invests primarily in non-US growth companies that they believe are innovators in their sectors or industries. Nominally the managers can invest in “domestic and foreign … companies of any size.” As a practical matter, they invest in international small-cap companies. That’s reflected in the first four words atop their homepage:

While retaining the flexibility of Continue reading →

great horned owl

Harbor Global Leaders Investor (HGGIX), October 2020

By David Snowball

Objective and strategy

Harbor Global Leaders targets firms, worldwide, that are capable of generating sustainable, above-average, and relatively stable rates of earnings per share growth and strong free cash flows. The manager looks for companies that are leaders in their country, industry, or globally in terms of products, services, or execution. 

Their ideal business has six Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Vanguard ESG U.S. Corporate Bond ETF

By David Snowball

On September 24, 2020, Vanguard launched Vanguard ESG U.S. Corporate Bond ETF (VCEB) which tracks the Bloomberg Barclays MSCI U.S. Corporate SRI Select Index. The expense ratio is 0.12%. The ETF does not advertise a target maturity, other than to say that the maturities on portfolio securities will be “more than one year.” It also excludes small (under $750 million) bond issues.

There are about a dozen ESG-screened, fixed-income ETFs already in operation from BlackRock, DWS, Inspire, Nuveen, and PIMCO. Between them, assets are low Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Evolutionary Tree Innovators Fund

By David Snowball

On September 9, 2020, Evolutionary Tree Capital Management launched the Evolutionary Tree Innovators Fund (INVNX).  The plan is to invest in 25-35 domestic growth-oriented companies that qualify as “leading innovative businesses” (hence the ticker symbol).  The fund will be managed by Thomas M. Ricketts, formerly a senior portfolio manager on Sands Capital’s flagship Select Growth US Large-Cap Growth strategy, a $20+ billion Continue reading →

The Leader Board: Top Global Large-Cap Growth funds

By David Snowball

This month’s profile of Harbor Global Leaders (HGGIX) mentions “the top 10” global large-cap funds on several occasions. The argument for such funds is simple: in steady rising markets, almost – but not quite – everyone gets to win. In stagnant or declining markets, almost – but not quite – everyone suffers. Index funds work best when they can cheaply and efficiently capture the gains offered by rising markets. Concentrated growth funds hold out the prospect of identifying the small fraction of companies that can grow even when the world doesn’t. Those are companies that Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in Registration

By David Snowball

We are beginning of the annual insanity. The Securities and Exchange Commission, by law, gets between 60 and 75 days to review proposed new funds before they can be offered for sale to the public. Fund companies anxious to have a new fund up and running by December 31st need to have it in the hopper by mid-October at the latest. The late September filings – we found 34 active funds and ETFs in registration – are the beginning of the annual flood.

Every month the ETF industry breathlessly trots out a few ideas designed to seize the moment. Think: “Virtual Work Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager Changes, September 2020

By Chip

Fund managers matter, sometimes more than others. As more teams adopt the mantra “we’re a team,” if only as window-dressing, more than more manager changes are reduced to “one cog out, one cog in.” Nonetheless, we know that losing funds with new managers tend to outperform losing funds that hold onto their teams, while the opposite is true for winning funds. Strong funds with stable teams and stable assets outperform strong funds facing instability (Bessler, et al, 2010). Because of the great volatility of their asset class, equity managers matter rather more than fixed-income investors.

This month, 50 funds saw management turnover, from the departure of some household-name managers from Touchstone funds to the decision by Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball


FPA has filed to launch FPA Queens Road Small Cap Value Fund. As we noted a couple of months ago, Bragg Capital, an adviser to the Queens Road Funds, entered into an agreement with FPA to have FPA take responsibility for marketing the funds. That allowed FPA to leverage their marketing group and allowed Bragg to focus on running two really exceptional funds: Value and Small Cap Value. This partnership is likely a substantial win for all involved, investors and advisors alike.

FPA, meanwhile, will no longer be managing the Continue reading →