The Permanent Portfolio’s Choppy Growth History

In 1982, the late Harry Brown (investment adviser and Libertarian presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000) helped create a conservative mutual fund intended to shelter investors during downturns, with a portfolio divided equally among U.S. stocks, long-term Treasuries, cash and gold. This according to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal.

The fund, named Permanent Portfolio (currently at $2.8 billion in assets), has shifted over the years with respect to allocations, but the mission remains the same, the article says. According to Morningstar data, when it lost 8.6% after 2008 while the S&P 500 tanked by 37%, investors piled in. In 2013, however, when the converse happened, investors withdrew to the tune of $6.6 billion and, the article reports, “the fund has seen outflows every year since, according to Morningstar.” In 2012, the assets in the fund were nearly $13 billion according to Morningstar.

Michael Cuggino, the fund’s manager since 2003, explains, “People typically performance-chase.” Given that the eight-year bull market we’re experiencing is “possibly growing weary,” Cuggino says those investors that were with the fund years ago are contemplating a return. For the ten years ending in March, the article states, the fund has gained an average of 4.7% per year. “Investors still see value in equities, but more are beginning to think about what’s coming next,” says Cuggino.