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AAII Journal February 2017 Issue Now Available

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Feature Article:

thumbnail AAII Cover ArticleThe Individual Investor’s Guide to the Top Mutual Funds 2017

The online version of our annual mutual fund guide has all new features, including reports for each fund.


In This Issue:

Briefly Noted

Letters to the Editor

Members ask questions on the Model Shadow Stock Portfolio and give tips on retirement spending and meditation apps for investors.


Letter From The Editor:

AAII Journal Editor photo There are winds of change blowing in the broader fund industry.

One of those winds is occurring within the exchange-traded fund arena. Last month, Davis Advisors launched three actively managed exchange-traded funds. The three ETFs—Davis Select U.S. Equity (DUSA), Davis Select Financial (DFNL) and Davis Select Worldwide (DWLD)—are fully transparent stock funds. They disclose their full holdings daily, just as traditional passively managed ETFs do.

Other actively managed ETFs had previously been launched. The four largest are bond ETFs from PIMCO and Doubleline. These funds account for $2 out every $5 invested in the 176 actively managed ETFs in existence as of December 31, 2016, based on data from Morningstar. Eaton Vance’s NextShares offer equity-focused exchange-traded managed funds (ETMFs). Though ETMFs trade like ETFs, the transparency of their holdings is more opaque.

Mutual funds are only required to reveal their holdings quarterly. Many mutual fund managers have resisted more frequent disclosure out of concern about traders jumping ahead of their portfolio moves. Davis is unique in casting these worries aside. Barron’s quoted chairman Chris Davis as saying “it would be very strange if [the ETFs] ended up with a different kind of portfolio” than Davis Advisors’ mutual funds.

Another wind of change is a new class of mutual fund shares: T. The new share class is being developed in response to the Labor Department’s fiduciary rule. The rule requires costs to be considered in determining whether or not an investment is suitable for a retirement savings account. T shares will have lower sales charges (loads) than their class A brethren. John Rekenthaler at Morningstar says the new share class will have a 2.5% front load and an ongoing 0.25% 12b-1 fee.

In our mutual fund guide, we exclude funds with high fees. There are enough good low-cost options to question the need for a fund with high fees. Those of you who work with an adviser or have a workplace retirement savings plan may come across the T share class. If faced with a choice among fund share classes, the cheapest option is the usually the best option. Make sure you compare both the front (or rear) load you might have to pay along with the ongoing expense ratio and 12b-1 fee, if one applies. It’s the total cost you’ll pay for owning the fund that matters, and not just the initial fee.

A third wind of change is broker-established fees. Capital Group received permission from the SEC last month to allow brokers to set their own commission for a new American Funds’ offering: clean shares. Clean shares will be a class of shares without any front-end load, deferred sales charge or other asset-based fee for sales or distribution. Rather, brokers will be allowed to set the commission they want to charge customers to buy and sell clean shares. Though brokers already set transaction fees for no-load funds, clean shares are in effect an alternative to the T shares for funds with front-end load fees.

A shift by the industry toward more transparency and lower fees is a welcome development. As to which of these winds of change will be a breeze and which will be gusts remains to be seen. Success by Davis Advisors could prompt followers, with the biggest being Vanguard. Last year, the fund giant submitted an application to the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch actively managed ETFs with daily disclosure. As of press time, Vanguard had yet to launch any such active ETFs.

The fate of the T share class and American Funds’ clean shares will likely be influenced by the fate of the fiduciary rule. Should the Trump administration seek to weaken or rescind the fiduciary rule, there will be less impetus for fund companies to offer the newer share classes. For companies that already offer the new share classes, it may be difficult to turn back the clock.

Wishing you prosperity,

c

Charles Rotblut, CFA
Editor, AAII Journal
@CharlesRAAII

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