COUNTRY FUNDS

Arjun Divecha is one smart dude. In this Business Standard interview, he shares his assessment of various international stock markets. These days, he’s overweighting Korea, Brazil, Taiwan and Turkey; underweighting Russia, India, Israel and South Africa. This gives me heart to hang on to our nicely appreciated shares of BZF and KF, both of which sell at slight discounts to their net asset values (as they should, because we suffer an expense charge each year) . . . and to take profits in TRF and IFN, both of which are selling at premiums to their net asset value (despite the expense charge) – like dollar bills that sell for $1.10 each.

The Dow is dead even with its level on January 20, 2001. BZF has more than doubled since then, IFN and KF have roughly tripled, TRF has quadrupled.

Tax cuts for the wealthy were sold as necessary to get the American economy humming. But the smart money took their huge tax cuts (which we added to the National Debt) and invested it overseas.

MUTUAL FUNDS

Here‘s a site, FundAlarm, dedicated to helping you decide when to sell a fund. I referred to it a few weeks ago with regard to TIAA-CREF’s public funds. Now comes this update:

Back in August, we reported that TIAA-CREF was asking shareholders at 23 of its mutual funds to approve either large, very large, or obscene increases in the management fees that TIAA-CREF would be allowed to charge…..TIAA-CREF claimed that it had unintentionally low-balled the funds’ management fees when they were first introduced, and the funds had been money-losers ever since…..To their immense credit, and to the surprise of almost everyone who watches mutual funds, shareholders at nine of the TIAA-CREF funds rejected the increased management fees, and now the fate of those funds is in question…..TIAA-CREF had threatened to liquidate or merge any fund that wasn’t allowed to increase its fees, and that may yet happen…..We have a better idea, especially if TIAA-CREF tries to follow through with its liquidation threat: Let the funds’ trustees (directors) step forward, and arrange for a merger of the rebellious TIAA-CREF funds with similar Vanguard offerings…..Fund expense ratios will probably go down, shareholders will finally get the quality company they thought they were getting with TIAA-CREF, and shareholders won’t have to deal with the potentially undesirable consequences of a forced liquidation…..In fact, if push comes to shove, it’s difficult to imagine how the trustees could properly do their job and not consider some kind of deal with Vanguard.

PLAYING FAIR ON TOBACCO

Yesterday, in commenting on the new House Majority Leader, I asked, what does it say about the Republican leadership that its kids go to work lobbying for Philip Morris, that it marries Philip Morris lobbyists, and that it does what it can to promote the interests of Philip Morris’

David D’Antonio: ‘I have no love for tobacco companies, having lost both parents to lung cancer. But fair is still fair and the ‘Republican leadership’ isn’t doing any such thing; one person did it. Last I checked Bush wasn’t married to any Philip Morris lobbyist, nor was Cheney. You may not like or approve of what the current administration is doing (I certainly don’t approve of a lot of it) but if you want to be treated fairly, you owe them the same courtesy.’

☞ I agree. But the Bushes are friendly to tobacco interests as well – click here. And the Doles have long had very close tobacco ties. And all that’s legal; just a different set of priorities from the Democrats. Here’s what I wrote in 1997:

To me, there is something fundamentally different between, say, the Doles’ long-time financial support from the tobacco industry, and Elizabeth Dole, when she was Secretary of Transportation, delaying the ban on smoking in airplanes . . . on the one hand . . . and the kind of support the Clintons have received from anti-tobacco activists . . .

Here is a site that shows the industry’s contributions by Party. In 1990, it was almost dead even. But once the Democratic leadership (Clinton/Gore) showed it was serious about this issue, working to mitigate the addiction of our children and seriously questioning the fine scientific research of the Tobacco Institute – look at what happened. Suddenly the giving went three or four to one to Republicans. As it should have, because the Republican leadership is more kindly disposed to the sale and promotion of cigarettes (and assault weapons) than the Democratic leadership. Depending on one’s point of view, that is a good thing or a bad thing. But it is, I think, a thing.

 

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