Lewis Braham in Businessweek takes wait-and-see attitude toward the many “absolute returnâ€? mutual funds that have come on the market. These hybrid funds utilize hedge fund strategies inside of a mutual fund structure. We are likely to see more of these funds in part because many money managers believe we are in a low absolute return environment. This makes these strategies attractive relative to the standard asset classes.

David Winters, who manages the newly launched Wintergreen Fund (WGRNX), is  a prime example of a money manager launching a hybrid fund. Adrienne Carter at Businessweek profiles Winters and notes the ways that he will operate more like a hedge fund than a mutual fund:

  • Places no limits on the investing styles he uses, and can also short stocks.
  • Looks for bargain basement buys, emulating his mentor, Michael Price.
  • Won’t hide his activist bent in pushing for change at underperforming companies.
  • Seeks out troubled companies, even finding opportunities in bankruptcies.

Laura Johannes at the Wall Street Journal notes the trend away from “starâ€? fund managers towards index funds and team-managed mutual funds. From a business perspective it makes sense for fund companies to structure their products so that they do not rely on any single manager. Accountability is an ongoing issue in the investment world. Indeed one company made its name on the issue.

Russel Kinnel at Morningstar.com updates some research that shows, contrary to popular belief, that the Morningstar star ratings for mutual funds actually do distinguish across fund returns. Morningstar revamped their star system for funds some three years ago and the article follows up with some statistics showing the results.

Although Morningstar is highlighting the results of their star ratings, they are not a substitute for investment analysis. Kinnel notes,

That’s because we are big believers in fundamental analysis and recognize that the star rating is only a reflection of past risk-adjusted performance. Investing is much too complex for any single measure to sum up the entire merit of a security.

In short investors need to do their own research and be responsible for their own investment actions.

Robert Barker at Businessweek goes hunting for “dividend aristocratsâ€? in the S&P High Yield Dividend Aristocrats fund (SDY).