Must-Read Mutual Fund News

There's a lot going on in the mutual fund world, and if you miss something, it could end up costing you money. To keep you up-to-date and on top of things, we've scoped out some recent happenings in the mutual fund industry during the past week, and discussed how they may affect your portfolio.

Vanguard says goodbye
Quantitatively focused investing strategies have been absolute dogs in recent years, and many are still trying to climb out of the holes in which they still languish. Quant shops ran into a lot of difficulty with their models during the last recession and subsequent recovery, leading to a round of lagging performance across the board. Now the mutual fund space will offer two fewer quant options.

Vanguard recently announced that it will be closing its Structured Large-Cap Growth and Structured Large-Cap Value Funds. After underperforming in recent years, both quantitative funds will be liquidated around the end of May. Such a move is rare for Vanguard, which boasts a wide array of successful mutual funds and ETFs.

If you're a Vanguard investor, don't worry too much about the closing of these two funds. There are many other solid Vanguard options out there. For example, while they are not strictly quant-focused funds, investors can easily move into the Vanguard Growth ETF (NYSE: VUG  ) or Vanguard Value ETF (NYSE: VTV  ) at a low cost and get much of the same market exposure.

But more importantly, don't view this move, or the lagging performance of quant funds elsewhere, as a death knell for quantitative investing. Quant strategies are definitely having some dark days, but odds are good they'll make a comeback in the future. Quant funds can still be a good complement to more fundamentally focused options. Don't write off a quantitative approach just yet.

Muscle power
Bruce Berkowitz has earned a name as one of the most successful investors of the past decade, and apparently, he's not afraid to use some tough love to get the job done. Berkowitz's Fairholme Fund (FAIRX) is the single largest owner of Florida-based real estate developer St. Joe (NYSE: JOE  ) .

Amid a dispute over the company's direction, Berkowitz abruptly resigned from St. Joe's board of directors in early February. He then launched a campaign to replace certain members of the board with his own candidates. This week, Berkowitz emerged victorious; the company's CEO announced that he would be stepping down, along with three other directors. Investors should certainly pay close attention to further developments at St. Joe's in the coming months.

Berkowitz certainly isn't afraid to rattle some cages in an effort to salvage his stake in a company. He's also not afraid to take on hefty bets when he sees opportunity. Fairholme now devotes almost three-quarters of its portfolio to names in the financial sector. Besides St. Joe's, Berkowitz has loaded up on big-name banks and financial firms that were damaged during the financial meltdown, including AIG (NYSE: AIG  ) , Citigroup (NYSE: C  ) , and Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) . Berkowitz sees tremendous value in names like these, since he feels that their balance sheets are in better shape now than in recent history.

Time will tell whether Berkowitz's big bet pays off, but if his track record is any indication, there's a good chance it will. Either way, there's a lot of risk in this fund right now. If you don't trust this manager, you might want to shop elsewhere for a more diversified large-cap offering.

Targeting truth
Target-date funds have been growing exponentially in recent years, as more and more retirement plans add them as default options and more investors decide they want some help with their asset allocation decisions. Target-date funds invest in a number of other mutual funds from the same fund family. A portfolio manager creates the asset allocation for the fund, then slowly adjusts it over time to become more conservative as you approach retirement.

Apparently, most of the profits here are going to just three fund shops: Fidelity, Vanguard, and T. Rowe Price (Nasdaq: TROW  ) . According to Dow Jones, more than two-thirds of the total revenue in the target-date fund world is tied to these three firms.

The market for target-date funds is very similar to the market for exchange-traded funds, in that it's dominated by a handful of large competitors. But that's OK, as long as the fund offerings are high-quality and low-cost.

Because Vanguard and T. Rowe Price offer some of the best, most inexpensive target-date funds around, I'm not too concerned that they have such a corner on the market. These two shops also do not "double-dip" with respect to fees, charging investors once for the underlying fees and again for the target-date fund itself. If you find a Vanguard or T. Rowe Price target-date fund in your retirement plan, rest assured that you've got a solid option there. If you're in the market for such a fund, I would recommend checking out one of these two shops as a first step.

For more winning mutual fund recommendations and time-tested personal financial planning advice, check out the Fool's Rule Your Retirement service. You can start your free 30-day trial today.

Amanda Kish is the Fool's resident fund advisor for the Rule Your Retirement investment newsletter. Amanda owns shares of Fairholme. The Fool owns shares of T. Rowe Price and Bank of America and through a separate account in its Rising Stars portfolios also has a short position in Bank of America. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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