I have been inundated with email following last Monday's
column on how often mutual funds must report their complete holdings to shareholders.
But one request in particular touched a nerve with me.
One reader wrote to ask where to find the last reported complete holdings of any mutual fund.
Investors can always call a respective fund company and ask to have the latest annual or semiannual report mailed to them. But for me, that just takes too long. To quote Veruca Salt, that nasty little girl from
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
, "I want it now."
The best place to start looking is always on a fund company's Web site. Many of the major fund companies post their fund literature, including the annual and semiannual reports.
, as an example, provides easy access to the most recent annual and semiannual reports on its
Web site. As with many sites, the documents are delivered in portable document format, or PDF, and you will need
Adobe Acrobat Reader software to view them.
In particular, the reader who sent me this question wanted to know how to locate
Washington Mutual's most recent list of holdings. When I visited the
Web site, located at
www.americanfunds.com, I easily located a list of the equity holdings for Washington Mutual, which is updated within 30 days of the end of the quarter.
Unfortunately, I have found that plenty of fund companies
deliver their funds' most recent shareholder reports.
If you can't locate this information on a firm's Web site, then you may want to try searching the EDGAR database of
Securities and Exchange Commission
On the Internet, there are several sites from which you can search EDGAR, although I don't think you could call any of them user-friendly. One is operated by the SEC and others are operated by other groups.
I remember when I first started covering mutual funds, I always dreaded trying to find anything on EDGAR. It always seemed a little like combing through documents at the courthouse: time-consuming and invariably pointless.
But one key is knowing the type of form that you are looking for. For annual and semiannual reports, you are searching for the N-30D. If a fund company also files quarterly reports for shareholders, you should look for N-30B-2, which you will see less often.
I will walk you through a few of the sites.
First, let's visit
, operated by
and located at
www.freeedgar.com. As the name implies, this site is free and you do not have to register to receive a user ID and password. On the home page, you have to enter the name that you are searching for and it will pull up the various search results.
One frequent stumbling block is that the filing will not show up under the exact fund's name. With
Fidelity Magellan, yes, you will find all the filings under Fidelity Magellan. But take the
funds. In this case, you have to search under the name
, the firm that manages these funds.
, for example, some funds are filed under a group heading rather than under their individual names. For example,
Dreyfus Aggressive Value and
Dreyfus Large Company Value are filed under the heading "Dreyfus Growth & Value funds." Once you figure out the name under which desired filings are made, future searches certainly become a lot easier.
, operated by
Cybernet Data Systems
, can be found at
www.edgar-online.com. It has an advanced full-search feature, which lets you search by form type as well as by other criteria. On this site, you will have to register for a user ID and password and pay for the site's premium services, which start at $29.85 per quarter (less if you are a student or journalist). But basic searches, like those for fund holdings, are free.
You can always try searching EDGAR via
the SEC's site, which also can be rather painful. Under "Search the EDGAR Database," you will see several options. The "Quick Forms Lookup" may be the easiest option. You can insert N-30D and the name of the company. The area called "Mutual Funds Retrieval" consists of a pre-written list of fund names that is far from complete and does not let you enter a specific form type.
If you are going to try to find your fund's most recent reports in EDGAR, I urge you have patience. Finding what you need in that vast cavern takes practice and patience.
Did S&P Beat 96% of Funds?
Could you lead me to a survey that showed that 96% of U.S. stock mutual funds underperformed the S&P 500 in 1998. Does the 96% number sound right to you? -- Jim Cosy
Actively managed equity funds have been notorious lately for underperforming the
, but they didn't fare
badly last year.
In 1998, 17.2% of actively managed general equity funds (excluding index and sector funds) outpaced the S&P 500, according to
. That's 555 out of 3,228 funds.
came up with a similar number. According to that fund tracker, 16.9% of U.S. diversified stock funds beat the large-cap index, or 520 out of 3,075 funds.
These data will certainly give more ammunition to proponents of indexing, who maintain that it is far better to buy a low-cost index fund than to put your money in an actively managed fund that might not beat the benchmark.
But there also are investors who swear by putting their money with active managers. One argument is that the S&P 500 will, sooner or later, cease outperforming other areas of the market. What about when small-cap stocks finally make a comeback? Some professionals contend that in the small-cap market, fund investors have a greater chance of achieving outperformance with the right active manager than with an index fund. As the reasoning goes, you need an active manager to flush out small but solid companies in that area of the market.
The debate is endless. If anything, you can use these data for cocktail-party conversation.
In the Interest of Full Disclosure
Fund Forum last week, I wrote that fund companies are required to release complete holdings of their funds to shareholders only twice a year -- in their funds' annual and semiannual reports.
Over the weekend, I received email from three readers who mentioned the quarterly reporting requirements for investment mangers. "Most mutual funds and other investment companies must file a Form 13F with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
each quarter," wrote Jay Jupiter.
Some readers out there are probably crying, "No! Not another form from the SEC!" But here goes.
The 13F is a quarterly report of
holdings by institutional investment managers who have equity assets under management of $100 million or more. Banks, insurance companies, investment advisers, investment companies, foundations and pension funds may be included in this category. The forms have to be filed within 45 days after the end of the quarter.
Investment advisers do not have to provide these documents to fund shareholders. And investment managers are not yet required to make the filings electronically. That requirement does not start until April of this year, says Alan Goldberg, an attorney with
Bell, Boyd & Lloyd
in Chicago. Therefore, many of filings are not available on
and are not readily accessible via the Internet. (On EDGAR, the form is the 13F-E.)
Secondly, the equity holdings of an adviser are aggregated in the filings, which will include all accounts run by that institutional investment manager. The holdings are not broken out fund by fund. Simply, the 13F is not intended to show which mutual funds are holding what.
Financial information providers like
collect the data in the 13F filings to compile information on securities ownership. Certainly, someone can peruse an investment manager's 13F filings and ascertain which stocks the firm likes. The filings would certainly indicate if a firm is increasing or decreasing its stake in certain sectors and particular holdings.
But I don't think these filings are of any practical use for individual fund shareholders. Frankly, I wouldn't want to spend the time untangling these documents every quarter, particularly for a large fund company. I looked through a 13F filed by
, the parent of the Fidelity funds. It felt a bit like cracking open
Internet Stocks or Funds?
Should I invest in Internet funds or Internet stocks? I have about $150,000 in 13 stocks, including Adaptec (ADPT) - Get Report, Compaq (CPQ) , Cabletron Systems (CS) - Get Report, ICOS (ICOS) and Oracle (ORCL) - Get Report, and I have another $50,000 to invest. I am 60 and retired, and my wife is still working. -- Ferrell Ely
On Tuesday, the
plummeted 94.13, or 3.9%, for its third-worst point drop ever. Internet stocks made an even hastier retreat as the
TheStreet.com Internet Sector
index fell 48.59, or 9.6%, largely due to a 26.1% decline in
Internet stocks staged an early recovery Wednesday. But Tuesday's performance is an essential reminder of their volatility, especially as you are considering putting $50,000 in the group.
The first question you should ask yourself is: "Can I afford to take this kind of risk?"
If this is money that you can afford to lose, you might consider putting some of it in the Internet sector. (You may have a hefty pension that you didn't mention or a considerable amount of additional money invested in other instruments.)
"I don't have a problem investing in aggressive-growth stocks. That's if you are home free from the standpoint of financial independence," says David Foster, a financial planner with
Foster & Motley
"What would happen or how would you feel if you lost a substantial portion of your money overnight, and it didn't regain its value for years?" asks Ben Tobias of
Tobias Financial Advisors
in Plantation, Fla.
If you are going to need this money for living expenses within the next five years or so, "No. 1,
you shouldn't be adding money to a tech portfolio," says Foster. Instead, you may consider moving into steadier kinds of equities or other, less aggressive instruments.
The decision also depends on the state of your entire investment portfolio. A good number of your stocks are technology-related. Some of the professionals suggested that you may want to step away from your existing investments and assess your complete portfolio. If you need this money in the short term, do you have the necessary downside protection? You may need to diversify outside of tech or growth stocks in general.
"There is no diversification in picking stocks that would move together," says Robert Levitt, a financial adviser with
Levitt Novakoff & Co.
in Boca Raton, Fla. It's like someone buying suntan lotion, swimsuits, rafts and other things that you take to the beach, without any thought that it might rain, Levitt says.
For that diversification, Levitt prefers buying mutual funds to individual stocks. "I don't buy individual stocks. It is very difficult to pick the winners. By buying a fund, I am never only owning the top performers." He starts with a core holding like the
Vanguard Total Stock Market index fund, which aims to match the
You asked about Internet sector funds, but some of the financial planners I spoke to prefer investing with a recognized manager who runs a diversified fund. Daniel Roe with
Budros & Ruhlin
in Columbus, Ohio, suggests playing the Internet by going to a seasoned manager who knows technology. That way the pressure is off you to pick the next great names and on the manager, whom you can always fire.
Fave Financial Sites
What is your favorite financial site on the Internet?
No, this is not intended as a self-serving question. Let me explain.
On Feb. 20, I will appear on two panels at
The Plain Dealer MoneyWatch
, an investing and finance seminar in Cleveland. I will talk about using the computer for beginning investing and advanced investing. Of course, for me, using the computer simply means using the Internet.
Over the past few days, I have been diligently combing the Internet for sites that are educational, ones that would be particularly useful for people who are just starting to invest. Of course,
has a plethora of educational material in the
Basics section. Still, I have been looking for sites that deliver comprehensive materials on stocks, bonds and mutual funds or sites that have a singleness of purpose.
For example, I use
www.investorwords.com, several times every week. I love this glossary of investing terms. It's the place to go if you can't remember what CAPM stands for.
I frequently take a look at the
Nasdaq Stock Market's
www.nasdaq.com. Call me shallow, but I just like the way the site looks.
I want to know which sites you use, particularly for the rudiments of investing. I will compile your suggestions with more of my own favorites for my column next Tuesday.
Email me with your recommendations at
100 and More
Additional details are available on the upcoming
investment product from the
Nasdaq-Amex Market Group
, which I have mentioned in previous
Fund Forums. The instrument will trade like a stock on the
American Stock Exchange
, much like the existing
Standard & Poor's Depositary Receipts
, or SPDRs, that already trade on the exchange.
If you visit the Nasdaq's Web site, you will see a
link to a preliminary prospectus. You have to fill out a form, but then you will be able to download the document using the
Adobe Acrobat Reader
Australian Bond Fund Looks Promising
What do you think of First Australia Prime Income (FAX) - Get Report fund? Goldman Sachs is forecasting a 20% rise in the Australian dollar. If that happens, I believe FAX, which is mostly invested in Australian government bonds, will do well. It has a 20% discount to NAV and yields 12.3%. -- Robert Kalb
You are certainly not alone in your belief that First Australia Prime Income is a very attractive investment -- for a somewhat aggressive investor.
Before I explain why, let me update your numbers. Goldman is forecasting a 16% rise in the value of the Australian dollar this year, to 72 cents from 62 cents at the beginning of the year. Buying Australian dollars was No. 5 on Goldman's foreign exchange department's "Top 10 Trades for 1999" list published Dec. 17.
As for FAX's discount, it's currently about 15.6%, and the yield is 12%.
As you point out, First Australia, which is managed by Sydney-based
Equitilink Investment Management
, invests mainly in Australian government bonds.
And unlike many other global income funds, it doesn't hedge its currency risk. That's why it's a way to play the Australian dollar. Most of the income the fund generates is Australian dollar-denominated. If the Australian dollar keeps rising against the U.S. dollar, the income the fund generates will translate into larger and larger dollar amounts.
In fact, the fate of the Australian dollar will probably be the single largest determinant of how First Australia performs. The fact that its Australian dollar-denominated assets are government bonds means Australian interest rates also play a big role. But not as big as they used to. When the fund was launched in 1986, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Australian government bond was above 12%. Now it's around 5.30%.
James Blair, head of fixed income at Equitilink, estimates that two-thirds of the fund's return on its Australian dollar assets are now currency-related, up from roughly half during the first 10 years of the fund's life.
So, why bet on a rise in the Australian dollar? "The Australian dollar has a very high correlation with commodity prices," says Mariana Bush, closed-end fund analyst at
. In one of the clearest consequences of the Asian financial crisis, commodity prices are in the tank. Their leading index, the
Commodity Research Bureau
index, made a fresh low yesterday.
The Australian dollar, currently worth about 64 cents, is pretty well beaten down, too, although it diverged from the CRB back in September and started improving. Still, it's now at levels last seen back in April. And before the Asian financial crisis started in July 1997, it fluctuated around 75 cents.
The Australian dollar is benefiting or is expected to benefit from four things.
First is the belief that the worst is over in Asia, and as a result, commodity prices soon will start to recover. Calling the Australian dollar "the cheapest currency in the world" according to Goldman's models, Jim O'Neill, the firm's chief currency analyst, says that "with non-Japan Asian growth starting to stabilize, demand for Australian commodities out of places like Korea is likely to improve sharply." Goldman figures the Australian dollar is worth at least 76 cents.
The second basis for a bullish forecast on the Australian dollar is confidence in the Australian economy. O'Neill thinks that after the U.S., it's the strongest economy in the 29-nation
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. He's forecasting growth in the 3.5% to 4% range for the next two years. (Inflation remains as low as in the U.S., though, up 1.6% year on year, supporting the value of Australian bonds.)
Third, Blair says the Australian dollar has been benefiting from the fact that Australia's key short-term interest rate is now even with the U.S. fed funds rate at 4.75%. Before the
three rate cuts last fall, the Australian cash rate was lower than the fed funds rate at 5%, which put pressure on the Australian dollar.
Finally, the Australian currency has benefited from the rise in the region's most important currency, the Japanese yen, since the summer, even though the Japanese economy continues to languish, Blair says.
But the potential for a rise in the value of the Australian dollar is only part of the reason why two leading closed-end fund analysts like FAX.
They like the fact that a major strategy change by the fund last fall -- the fund is now able to invest up to 35% of its assets in Asian debt securities -- has boosted its yield while only slightly affecting its average credit quality. The shift should enable the fund to maintain its dividend indefinitely, something that might not have been possible otherwise, because Australian bond yields have come down.
Last October, when yields on risky bonds went through the roof after Russia defaulted on its debt, FAX raised $617 million in a rights offering for investment in Asia. Targeting South Korea and, to a lesser extent, Thailand, the Philippines and China, the managers bought mostly U.S. dollar-denominated sovereign or sovereign-related issues at yield spreads as wide as 700 basis points over Treasuries. Those spreads have since narrowed to roughly 300 basis points over Treasuries, adding to the fund's unrealized capital gains. The
Bear Stearns Asia Pacific Index
, a good proxy for the Asian portion of the fund, according to Blair, has returned 13.8% over that period.
As of Dec. 31, Blair says, 12.8% of the fund's assets were invested outside Australia. Of the fund's assets, 12.2% were in U.S. dollar-denominated securities, and 7.7% were in Korean issues, which have benefited from the country's upgrade by
Standard & Poor's
"They were almost trying to replicate the original story of the fund," says Kristoph Rollenhagen,
closed-end fund analyst, who upgraded FAX from hold to strong buy after the rights offering. "When it started, Australian interest rates were in the double digits. Now they're in the 4% to 6% range. So they have colossal gains."
Potential investors in the fund should understand that the strategy change makes the fund riskier than it was before. It is not a conservative investment. But analysts say the current price of the fund overrates its risk. The investment in Asia lowered the fund's average credit quality, but only to double-A-minus from double-A-plus before the rights offering.
Investors who are steering clear of this fund because they think it has become an emerging-markets debt fund may be making a mistake, analysts say.
Based on its yield, Everen's Bush says, "People are giving it an expected risk closer to an emerging-market debt fund. It's not an emerging-market debt fund."
Rollenhagen adds, "The reason I went to a strong buy is, it is so completely unusual to see such a confluence of numbers on one fund. I would challenge anybody to find me a fund with a AA-minus average credit quality, yielding 12%, for 84 cents on the dollar." Even if the fund's discount doesn't narrow, the analyst asks, "How bad off are you going to be?"
Elizabeth Roy answers your bond fund questions every Friday. Dagen McDowell answers your mutual fund questions Monday through Thursday. Send questions on either topic to
email@example.com, and please include your full name.