September 1, 2019

By David Snowball

Dear friends,

Egad! The fall semester has begun and my campus is swarming with students! Worst of all, they expect me to have something sensible to say at 8:30 Tuesday morning.  I’m doomed!

Snowball elsewhere

For those of you thinking, “yes, that’s all well and good, but what does Snowball sound like? Does he have an annoying twang in real-life like he does when I hear him in my head? I’m sure he’s got a guilty-looking Continue reading →

Beginning of the End or End of the Beginning?

By Edward A. Studzinski

“Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.”

H.L. Mencken, “What I Believe,” The Forum 84 (September 1930), p. 136

Is it different this time? We have made it to the end of August. Many investors have endured roller coaster rides in their portfolios. The year-to-date return for the S&P 500 Index, according to Bloomberg, is 16.74% through the end of August. The total return for the Vanguard Admiral Shares – S&P 500, charging just 4 basis points, is 18.33%. Many active-managed Continue reading →

Adjusting Portfolios for the Business Cycle

By Charles Lynn Bolin

I appreciate the opportunity to write for Mutual Fund Observer. I am a great fan of MFO, and it is my primary investment tool. I am a small investor, an engineer with a MBA nearing retirement. I spent the majority of the past dozen years working overseas and used my spare time reading about history, economics, forecasting, and investing.

The data used in this article is current as of July 2019. As of August 24th, the S&P 500 has lost 5% bringing the 12 month return down to 1.5%. Meanwhile the Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND) is up 10% over the same period.  In this article, I look at risks to the financial markets and economy, how funds with varying allocations to stocks have done over the past 20 years, identify 36 top low risk funds with high risk adjusted returns, and create three hypothetical million dollar portfolios based on the current environment. Continue reading →

Introducing MFO’s Portfolio Analysis Tool

By Charles Boccadoro

“Everybody has a game plan, but the plan changes after the first punch. ” – Cris Cyborg

Our June 2017 piece “How Bad Can It Get?” responded to David’s estimate of the pain he might experience given a severe market down-turn with his non-retirement portfolio. Fortunately, we’ve not yet experienced that downturn, but as he often does, he advised strongly that investors assess their portfolios based on the potential for drawdown. Better yet is for investors to do this when skies are blue, not when its raining and the roof starts leaking. The idea here is to help set expectations and avoid panic during the downturn, which until you’ve lived through one (and perhaps even then) is very hard to do.

We’ve just gone live on the MFO Premium site with a new tool that can help. Continue reading →

Launch Alert: Harbor Focused International

By David Snowball

On May 31, 2019, Harbor Funds launched Harbor Focused International (HNFIX/HNFSX). Harbor has eight international and global funds, of which three were either launched or relaunched this year. HNFIX is the most recent of those innovations.

Harbor Focused International will pursue capital appreciation. The fund will invest in 25-40 stocks from developed and emerging international markets. It will be an all-cap portfolio (minimum cap is just $1.5 billion) that is benchmark-agnostic. As a result, it might substantially overweigh some regions, sectors or styles if that’s what Continue reading →

Elevator Talk: Clayton Triick, Angel Oak UltraShort Income (AOUAX/AOUIX)

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. Continue reading →

old license plates on a wall

Funds in Registration, September 2019

By David Snowball

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. Each month, Funds in Registration gives you a peek into the new product pipeline. Most funds currently in registration will become available by late October.

Our list contains 37 new funds and active ETFs, with another 15 (unlisted) high minimum institutional funds and passive ETFs. Funds worth putting on your radar include FPA Balanced, a 60/40 fund with A-tier managers; three new funds from Continue reading →

old alarm clock

Manager Changes, August 2019

By Chip

Every month we track changes to the management teams of equity, alternative and balanced funds, along with a handful of fixed-income ones. Why “a handful”? Because most fixed-income funds are such sedate creatures, with little performance difference between the top quartile funds and the bottom quartile, that the changes are not consequential. Even in the realms we normally cover, the rise of management committees dilutes the significance of any individual’s departure or arrival.

This is one of the months in which the number of funds making changes is relatively large – 60 – but the number making dramatic changes is Continue reading →

fountain pen writing a note

Briefly Noted

By David Snowball

Updates

Three advisers are vying for this month’s “they’re doing what? Did I read this right?” award for moves where we were, literally, reading the filings aloud, slowly, to be sure we weren’t missing something.

Nominee #1 BlackRock

BlackRock Focus Growth (MAFOX) will undergo “a reorganization with another BlackRock-advised fund” in the fourth quarter of 2019. In the reorganization, the $1 billion, Continue reading →