The ever-innovative Wall Street machine is again hard at work churning out new investment products and new takes on old ideas in an attempt to capture investor attention and dollars. Absolute return funds, gold-related investments, and new variations of exchange-traded funds have all made their way into the market in recent quarters as investors look for new ways to beat the market. For the most part, I'm not a big fan of shiny, new-fangled investment products, but there are a few newer fund-related options piquing my interest.
Royce Global Value (RIVFX)
The folks over at Royce have a long, long history of successful investing in the small-cap arena. In recent years, they've begun adding funds that focus more directly on foreign small-cap names, which seems to be a natural extension of their core business.
One fund I like in this space is Royce Global Value, which looks for small- and mid-sized foreign firms with manageable debt loads. Right now, industrial names are big in the fund, to the tune of nearly one-third of assets. Fund managers believe that stocks like Canada's Silver Standard Resources (Nasdaq: SSRI ) and U.S-based Schnitzer Steel Industries (Nasdaq: SCHN ) and GrafTech International (NYSE: GTI ) all fit Royce's ideal of fast-growing companies with strong balance sheets, a solid record of earnings, and an ability to generate strong free cash flow.
Although the fund has only been around just under four years, it has shown considerable promise so far. Over the most recent three-year period, the fund outranks 94% of its peers in the world stock category. No doubt its small-cap focus has much to do with that outperformance, but the fund also ranks far ahead of the average foreign small/mid-cap value fund over that time. The fund is a tad bit pricey with a 1.69% expense ratio, and I'd like to see that expense number come down a bit, but there's a lot to like here. If you want to capitalize on the investing expertise of one of the best small-cap shops in existence as they expand their focus around the globe, consider this fund.
Vanguard Explorer Value (VEVFX)
The Vanguard offering is practically fresh off the assembly line, having set up shop just four months ago. As such, a performance track record is obviously limited, but this fund isn't coming into the game from square one. Behind Vanguard Explorer Value is the expertise of three well-versed management shops, Cardinal Capital Management, Sterling Capital Management, and Frontier Capital Management. Vanguard has a well-honed process of selecting talented subadvisors for the shop's actively managed funds, and I expect that these three managers were subject to the same rigorous selection process that has brought success to Vanguard's other offerings.
Explorer Value looks to invest in small- and mid-sized names that are trading at discounted valuations, relative to managements' expectations. The portfolio is likely still being positioned at this point, but fund managers have identified insurance companies Willis Group Holdings (NYSE: WSH ) and Aspen Insurance Holdings (NYSE: AHL ) as promising value candidates. Both of these companies trade at valuations far below that of their industry peers and boast dividend yields in excess of industry averages as well, making them attractive long-term growth prospects for the fund. A low price tag of 0.59% further adds to this fund's charms. Investors might want to wait a bit to see how performance plays out here, but I expect good things here.
American Funds International Growth & Income (IGAAX)
It isn't often that American Funds comes out with a new fund offering, but their latest creation looks like it could be a winner. American Funds International Growth & Income looks for well-established, financially stable foreign companies that generate a meaningful dividend.
As is the case with all of the shop's fund offerings, International Growth & Income is managed by a team of portfolio counselors, in this case, three individuals who have been managing assets at the shop since that 1990s. They've chosen British American Tobacco (AMEX: BTI ) and France's Total (NYSE: TOT ) , which sport dividend yields of 6.4% and 5.7%, respectively. These global players should do an admirable job of providing income to the portfolio while also juicing long-term returns, thanks in part to their relatively high gross margins.
Since its inception in November 2008, the fund has returned an annualized 13%, compared to 8.6% for the MSCI EAFE Index and 8.4% for the average foreign large value fund. Given the depth and talent of the American Funds' management base, there's no reason to believe this fund won't be as successful as the shop's other, older offerings. Just be aware that the fund sports a front-end load, so only buy it if you can bypass this load, most likely in your 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan.
Investors should always exercise caution when buying new investment products, but when these products are backed by the expertise and track record of successful fund shops and investment managers, these offerings may deserve more than a second look.