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Is Plumb Balanced (PLBBX) a Strong Mutual Fund Pick Right Now?

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On the lookout for an Allocation Balanced fund? Starting with Plumb Balanced (PLBBX - Free Report) should not be a possibility at this time. PLBBX bears a Zacks Mutual Fund Rank of 4 (Sell), which is based on nine forecasting factors like size, cost, and past performance.

Objective

PLBBX is classified in the Allocation Balanced segment by Zacks, which is an area full of possibilities. Here, investors are able to get a good head start with diversified mutual funds, and play around with core holding options for a portfolio of funds. Allocation Balanced funds look to invest across a balance of asset types, like stocks, bonds, and cash, though including precious metals or commodities is not unusual; these funds are mostly categorized by their respective asset allocation.

History of Fund/Manager

PLBBX is a part of the Wisconsin Cap family of funds, a company based out of Madison, WI. The Plumb Balanced made its debut in May of 2007 and PLBBX has managed to accumulate roughly $113.52 million in assets, as of the most recently available information. The fund's current manager, Thomas G. Plumb, has been in charge of the fund since May of 2007.

Performance

Obviously, what investors are looking for in these funds is strong performance relative to their peers. PLBBX has a 5-year annualized total return of 8.93% and is in the top third among its category peers. Investors who prefer analyzing shorter time frames should look at its 3-year annualized total return of 12.54%, which places it in the top third during this time-frame.

When looking at a fund's performance, it is also important to note the standard deviation of the returns. The lower the standard deviation, the less volatility the fund experiences. PLBBX's standard deviation over the past three years is 10.69% compared to the category average of 7.61%. Looking at the past 5 years, the fund's standard deviation is 9.72% compared to the category average of 7.8%. This makes the fund more volatile than its peers over the past half-decade.

Risk Factors

Investors cannot discount the risks to this segment though, as it is always important to remember the downside for any potential investment. In the most recent bear market, PLBBX lost 37.07% and underperformed its peer group by 1%. This means that the fund could possibly be a worse choice than its peers during a down market environment.

Investors should not forget about beta, an important way to measure a mutual fund's risk compared to the market as a whole. PLBBX has a 5-year beta of 0.75, which means it is likely to be less volatile than the market average. Alpha is an additional metric to take into consideration, since it represents a portfolio's performance on a risk-adjusted basis relative to a benchmark, which in this case, is the S&P 500. With a positive alpha of 0.55, managers in this portfolio are skilled in picking securities that generate better-than-benchmark returns.

Holdings

Investigating the equity holdings of a mutual fund is also a valuable exercise. This can show us how the manager is applying their stated methodology, as well as if there are any inherent biases in their approach. For this particular fund, the focus is largely on equities that are traded in the United States.

Currently, this mutual fund is holding 89.12% stock in stocks, with an average market capitalization of $148.68 billion. The fund has the heaviest exposure to the following market sectors:

  1. Other
  2. Technology
Turnover is 58%, which means, on average, the fund makes fewer trades than comparable funds.

Expenses

Costs are increasingly important for mutual fund investing, and particularly as competition heats up in this market. And all things being equal, a lower cost product will outperform its otherwise identical counterpart, so taking a closer look at these metrics is key for investors. In terms of fees, PLBBX is a no load fund. It has an expense ratio of 1.18% compared to the category average of 0.92%. So, PLBBX is actually more expensive than its peers from a cost perspective.

Investors need to be aware that with this product, the minimum initial investment is $2,500; each subsequent investment needs to be at least $100.

Bottom Line

Overall, Plumb Balanced ( PLBBX ) has a low Zacks Mutual Fund rank, and in conjunction with its comparatively strong performance, average downside risk, and higher fees, this fund looks like a poor potential choice for investors right now.

This could just be the start of your research on PLBBXin the Allocation Balanced category. Consider going to www.zacks.com/funds/mutual-funds for additional information about this fund, and all the others that we rank as well for additional information. If you are more of a stock investor, make sure to also check out our Zacks Rank, and our full suite of tools we have available for novice and professional investors alike.


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