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Here's a statement of the obvious: The opinions expressed here are those of the participants, not those of the Mutual Fund Observer. We cannot vouch for the accuracy or appropriateness of any of it, though we do encourage civility and good humor.

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November is up

The November issue has posted. It is unusually full.
  • There’s a largely irrelevant debate about whether the stock market will crash any time soon. We begin by noting that no one knows; the real problem is that the conditions that underlie
  • Sequoia (SEQUX) is legendary. And it’s wobbling. A lot. David and Ed look separately, and critically, at the fund’s short- and long-term challenges.
  • The market’s toughest spot for active managers is large cap core, the heart of most portfolios. Leigh Walzer of Trapezoid LLC analyzes over 300 fund to identify the dozen with the greatest prospect of outperforming their peers and their benchmark index.
  • We highlight the “five great overlooked little funds” that Lewis Braham tracked down for Barron’s.
  • David Herro, a former Morningstar manager of the decade, made me crazy with his comments on global warming and emerging markets, so I decided to walk through them.
  • Capital gains season is upon us and we post Mark Wilson's first comments.
  • We profile RiverNorth Core Opportunity (RNCOX) and highlight the recent launch of T. Rowe Price Emerging Market Value (PRIJX).
  • Charles explains our transition from Morningstar to Lipper data.
  • And, of course, our usual collection of news from DailyAlts and FundFox, funds in registration, manager changes, liquidations and more.
You know, stuff. We have a lot of stuff.



  • Thanks, David. As always, lots of good stuff! Question about Trapezoid: Is "Class Prob." the most important "score?" How's Walzer's performance history/record?
  • David, Love the commentary as always, super appreciate your time and wisdom, but I wonder if, in the future, when you speculate on the overall market, you might want to cite a few reputable sources (Ned Davis, for one) who think we're actually in a secular bull? It's far from unanimous that the U.S. market is overpriced and ripe for a fall.

    FWIW, I recently spoke to the top hedge fund manager here in Brazil (29% / year since fund started in 1997, only one down year ever, 2008, down only 6%, and this is Brazil!) who thinks EMs in general (not just Brazil) are broken and developed country equity markets are currently priced for 5-7% real returns (i.e. post inflation) in the coming years. He's also betting that the dollar will keep rising against most world currencies.

    Who knows if he's right, and maybe it's just a question of seeing the warts better when you're close up, but your general vision, that we should be shifting equity allocations from the US to EMs, is by no means a consensus.
  • Hi, expat!

    Any leads on publicly-accessible versions of NDR's research? I spent about a half hour looking. The links at Ned Davis's "news" page lead mostly to bearish, locked stories. "Given the extent of indicator deterioration, last week's action has moved us closer to the latter conclusion (that the stock market is in the early stages of a bear market)," Ned Davis Research said in a note early Monday" (CNBC Pro) and "By this measure, the current stock market is anything but healthy. The 10-week moving average of weekly readings recently rose to 5.7%, well above the level that many researchers use as the threshold for a “sell” signal. (Fosback, for example, set this threshold at 5%, considering readings above that level as evidence of “extreme market divergence and ... bearish.” The threshold employed by Ned Davis Research, the Venice, Florida-based research firm, is 4.4%.)" (Hulbert).

    I found one (danged fluffy) piece in Seeking Alpha that quotes an NDR headline ("Bottom in place: Overweight equities") without letting me find or understand the original. I searched for references to Ned Davis and "bull" in news articles for the past month. From that I learned that "Raw materials may be in the fourth year of a 20-year 'bear super-cycle,' according to the Ned Davis Research Group" and that gold might drop into the 600s from its current 1100s (locked article). There's the note that NDR says November - January are the best times to be in the market (I agree). Beyond that, it was pretty slim pickings.

    Two things about my occasional (or more than occasional) market commentaries. One is that I try to rely on folks where I can get to the original research or analysis, rather than relying on a CNBC soundbite. I like GMO and Leuthold in particular because they've got a long public record and seem willing to own up to their limits. The other is that my impulse is to be neither bearish nor bullish; mostly I'm trying to get people to think beyond their immediate impulse, whether that's to panic (our September stuff denouncing the panic-mongers) or return to the "permanent high plateau" (November). Since the market goes up more than it goes down, I probably spend more time chanting "remember, thou too are mortal" (memento mori) than "live it up!" (dum vivimus, vivamus).

    For what that's worth,

    David (who, you're right, isn't grading that stack of papers to his left)
  • Hi, Jim.

    I passed your query along to Leigh. In general, he's pretty cautious. In our conversations, he's argued that he doesn't want to oversell the research but at the same time the back-testing has been strong. (Back-testing usually is, of course.) I'll share (or Leigh will share) a more-detailed response when it's available.

  • Hi David,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to respond. I'm not saying Ned Davis has a cristal ball or that he's better Leuthold or GMO, but he is a respected name. I get access to their reports via Schwab. Let me see if I can send it to you via pm....

  • Looking again at Ned Davis, looks like he's bullish for the next 6 months or so, then has "valuation concerns." Anyway, who knows. Is that comment above from "Leigh" from Ned Davis?
  • I am very upset at someone "discovering" BAEIX and BOPAX. It was totally my ANALysis without any outside help that got me into these funds. Now the secret is out and they will underperform.

  • Hi, expat!

    Leigh is Leigh Walzer, the principal at Trapezoid LLC.

  • David, Thanks again for posting the analysis done by Trapezoid. How are you able to discover all these pearls of wisdom? Thanks for sharing your stuff with us. I'm going to run all of my Amazon purchases through the MFO site effective immediately.
  • @David was kind enough to email me and take a look at the Ned Davis report I'd referred to... and indeed, though Mr. Davis's firm is bullish short-term (and very cautious for all terms on emerging markets) his longer-term stock market outlook is perfectly consistent with GMO and the other advisors David cites in his always-excellent commentary.

    Market-timing is hard! I'm no good at it and will leave it to the hedge fund guys, with someone else's money.
  • Leigh shared the following with Jim, sending it as a private message though he'd intended to post it here. He gave me permission to copy and paste it.


    The FundAttribution site has been up since June 2015. The website is in beta test.

    Backtesting results are posted in the password-protected portion of the site. Historically, the predictions have been accurate: managers who have been skillful in the past tend to remain skillful. The statistical confidence in the predictions is high.

    Forward-looking predictions for the large blend category are also posted on the site.

    Registration for demo (free for MFO readers) is required to access the studies. Demo users can also see results for individual funds in two categories with limited functionality

    I failed to mention that class probability is the single best metric because 1) it takes account of fund expenses 2) it considers how much confidence we have that current skill will carry forward.

  • Anent Walzer's '25k funds' puzzles, a colleague of mine in the industry speculates:

    ... bet that gross assets includes all of your derivatives positions, including those on both sides of a market, while net assets, in addition to netting out actual liabilities, would net out the offsetting positions. The fund's 7-day liquidity is how much of its portfolio it could liquidate in 7 days (and there is probably an assumed discount threshold, meaning that the fund could liquidate the assets for at least 90% or whatever of fair value). Investor liquidity is probably the amount of fund assets that investors have the right to liquidate over the next 7 days. Since liquidity in these funds is limited and sometimes requires advance notice, a number of just 15% may make sense.

  • @David_Snowball- Thanks for the lead to Wait- But Why? Really interesting stuff!
  • Thanks, OJ. Chip has been trying to contact them to see if we could get them to put an anchor link into the portion of their energy essay that deals with climate, but stuff keeps bouncing. These durn little mom 'n' pop websites ...

    Oh, right. That's us.


    We'll keep trying, you keep reading.

  • edited November 2015
    Summary: Here's a way to gain entree into the Institutional Class of Sterling funds:

    Sterling Capital Special Situations Fund Institutional (BOPIX) is one of the "A Decile" funds listed in the Trapezoid study in the November issue of MFO; it also sports a "Class Probability" of 72%, one of the highest on the chart and is part of the BB&T empire. Morningstar shows the minimum purchase to open an account is $1 million. Perhaps you've already discovered some way to buy it with less but I'll share a method I've discovered. If you act quickly, you can still OPEN AN ACCOUNT DIRECTLY WITH THE FUND (rather than through a broker) and buy the no-load Stratton Small Cap (STSCX) with a minimum purchase of $2,000, you will eventually gain entree into the institutional class of the Sterling funds. (I bought STSCX after learning that BB&T was acquiring Susquahanna Bankshares which owned the Stratton fund manager, because I figured that, after the BB&T / Susquahanna merger, I'd be able to buy the institutional class of any of the front-end load Sterling funds (after the Stratton funds are assimilated into the Sterling family). I did this knowing that, at the present time, BOPIX is probably the only Sterling fund worth buying, and was glad to see that Trapezoid's research gave BOPIX good marks. N.B.: merely buying STSCX through a third-party platform (i.e., a broker) won't give you entree to the Institutional class of Sterling funds - you MUST hold your Stratton fund directly through Stratton.

    The assimilation of the Stratton Funds into the Sterling Fund family will happen in "coming weeks," according to my sources. The shareholder vote has already occurred.
  • edited November 2015

    The reorganization is suppose to occur around 11/16/15 as per this filing,

  • The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Lard makes all the difference!
  • @David_Snowball
    I don't know whether it was the info, or the way you chose to sequence it, but this month's commentary got my tumblers rolling again (had almost forgot what it felt like). "Thought experiments" I hadn't completed and had set aside. Merci gobs to you and to those who contributed. Very stimulating.

    Noah Smith had an edit in BloombergView yesterday about the seeming disappearance of the value premium, and possible reasons for it. We exchanged a few comments about this several months back. Might take a glance.
  • TheShadow said:


    The reorganization is suppose to occur around 11/16/15 as per this filing,

    If George Schipp ends up managing these funds I will buy.
  • edited November 2015

    While George Schipp manages the Sterling Capital Special Opportunities Fund, the bigger question will be will Sterling allow an exchange from one grandfathered Stratton Fund, which will be an "I" class fund, to another Sterling "I" class fund?

    I've looked through the some of the prospectuses, but I am not sure if there is specific language permitting the exchange proposed above.

    You will need to get in a Stratton application pretty quick if you are interested.

    Here is the some language from the new acquired Sterling Stratton Funds concerning "I" shares,

    * Investors purchasing shares through Branch Banking and Trust Company, its affiliates or other financial service providers or intermediaries approved by the Fund, employees of Sterling Capital, trustees of the Sterling Capital Funds, and investors who were shareholders of the Predecessor Fund at the time of the reorganization between the Predecessor Fund and the Fund are not subject to a minimum initial investment requirement.

    Here is the language concerning "Exchanges" from the same filing:

    Exchanging Your Shares:

    You generally can exchange your shares in one Fund for shares of the same class of another Sterling Capital Fund, usually without paying additional sales charges (see “Notes on Exchanges” below). You must meet the eligibility requirements for the Sterling Capital Fund into which you are exchanging. Exchanges from one Fund to another Sterling Capital Fund are taxable. You may deposit redemption proceeds into the Sterling Capital Deposit Account. Institutional Shares may also be exchanged for Class A Shares of the same Fund if you cease to be eligible to purchase Institutional Shares. Institutional Shares of each Fund may not be exchanged for Class C Shares. No transaction fees are currently charged for exchanges. Furthermore, the exchange of Institutional Shares for Class A Shares will require payment of the sales charge unless the sales charge is waived. Please consult the Class A and Class C Shares prospectus for more information.

    Finally, there is this for institutional funds:

    Closing of Small Accounts:

    If your account holding Institutional Shares falls below $1,000,000, the Fund may ask you to increase your balance, except investors who were shareholders of a Predecessor Fund at the time of the reorganizations between each Predecessor Fund and its corresponding Sterling Capital Fund. If your account is still below $1,000,000 after 60 days, the Fund may close your account and send you the proceeds at the current NAV.

    I hope I am wrong, but looking on surface of the above information, I am not sure Sterling will allow an exchange from a grandfathered Stratton fund "I" class to another "I" class fund.

  • You can purchase BOPIX through Scottrade for a initial minimum investment of $100.00 plus T/F.
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