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Archive for March, 2014

Meb Faber’s new global fund? Greece and Russia top picks

New fund aims to cash in on global opportunities

Published Monday, March 31, 2014
If you’re a fan of buying low and selling high, then some (but not all) markets outside the U.S. might represent value for your portfolio.

We interviewed Mebane Faber (his first name is Scottish, pronounced “meb-bin”), a portfolio manager running about $350 million in assets. His firm recently launched a new exchange-traded fund called the Cambria Global Value ETF (GVAL). This fund invests in roughly 100 stocks in the world’s most undervalued markets, and Faber says those are – brace yourselves – Greece, Russia, Hungary, Ireland, Spain, Czech Republic, Italy, and Portugal.

It’s not that Faber dislikes American stocks; they are just not a bargain now. He argues that based on a ratio called the Schiller CAPE model, the U.S. market is actually very expensive, and for this fund, he is currently not invested in American equities. And, yes, the Schiller is Yale University economist Robert Schiller.

Faber runs other ETFs, such as Cambria Shareholder Yield ETF (NYSE: SYLD), which do currently invest in U.S. stocks.

“Japanese equities in the 1980s were a big bubble, approaching half the world’s market cap. The U.S. market is almost there,” Faber said.

Moreover, “most investors have home-country bias,” Faber said, in an interview from his Los Angeles offices.

“This is a way to get more exposure to a globally market-weighted portfolio,” he added. “Plus, we are buying the value among value.” He means the cheapest, most liquid stocks in places where either political or economic crises have crushed stock prices.

Wesley Gray of Drexel University is one of Faber’s investment research partners, and their takeaway is to buy beaten-down stocks in beaten-down markets, what Faber calls “value among value.”

“Yes, the stocks could go down further before they rebound,” Faber said, but by investing in many markets, the fund is diversified.

We’ll keep an eye on Cambria’s newest ETF and report back when performance data are available.

 

Fraudster fighter

We wrote about Ingrid Robinson, a defrauded investor from California in the Remington Financial advance-fee scam, and she spoke last week at the sentencing hearing of Andrew Bogdanoff, the head of Remington, which operated from Arizona and Philadelphia. Bogdanoff received more than 18 years in prison for financial crimes.

Robinson shows how one person who perseveres against criminals – in this case, commercial brokers Bogdanoff and Andrew McManus, who were convicted of stealing investors’ “due diligence” fees – promising loans that never arrived – can prevail.

Robinson also met with members of Congress to push for legislation regulating commercial brokers. If a commercial broker has victimized you, contact her at Ingrid.robinson2@yahoo.com

 

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Yes, Muni Bond Prices Hose Retail Investors: S&P Dow Jones

ERIN E. ARVEDLUND

Phila Inquirer Thursday, March 13, 2014, 1:08 AM

If you are a municipal-bond investor, we have two news flashes for you.First, we found a local money manager who recently purchased some Puerto Rican muni bonds, despite the island’s debt downgrade to junk-bond rating some weeks ago. For investors with a high risk tolerance, Puerto Rico debt yielding about 8 percent tax-free has drawn some sophisticated buyers.

Second, a new study out of S&P Dow Jones confirms that Wall Street is getting one over on us when it comes to municipal bonds: If you try to buy individual munis yourself, you are getting hosed on the price.

On Puerto Rico, we circled back to David Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors of Vineland, N.J., to find out whether he liked Puerto Rico’s new bond issue last week.

“We have certain segregated accounts that are Puerto Rico-only, and we position certain P.R. debt in them. We do not do so for high-grade accounts,” Kotok said. “We must remember P.R. is a junk credit.”

Puerto Rico muni bonds have attracted some atypical buyers, such as corporate junk-bond investors and hedge funds.

“These are not typical high-grade muni buyers, so their pricing behavior is not a reflection” of how risky these muni bonds truly are, Kotok added. Still, an 8 percent yield tax free is tough to beat. Similarly rated corporate bonds yield about 4.8 percent, according to Bloomberg data.

 

Want to buy munis?

Don’t do it yourself. Leave it to your portfolio manager or an exchange-traded fund (ETF).

That’s the upshot from J.R. Rieger, global head of fixed income at S&P Dow Jones Indices, who found that a retail investor pays about twice the transaction cost for a muni bond as for a corporate bond.

In December, the average cost to buy an individual municipal bond was 1.73 percent for retail investors. An investment-grade corporate-bond transaction cost roughly half that, at 0.87 percent.

“Buying a muni bond entails an unseen transaction cost, which may not always be clear to retail investors,” Rieger said in an interview. Because muni bonds are sold without commissions, brokers make up the difference by padding the price and building a markup into the muni bond.

“We don’t know what the markup is exactly,” Rieger said, but he suggested that retail investors stick with muni bonds in either mutual funds or ETFs.