Cryptocurrencies are Crashing So How Low Will Bitcoin Go

With bitcoin crashing – in fact, the entire cryptocurrency sector crashing – I thought I should quickly cover it today. Needless to say, it’s not pretty. At all.

Faith in cryptocurrencies has been battered – in most cases, quite rightly

This time last year, bitcoin went on one its monster runs above $60,000. It then had one of its monster crashes. I can’t remember if it was on these pages or on Twitter, but somewhere I suggested that a reasonable target for the correction might be $20,000.

$20,000 was the old high from the 2017 boom and bust and an obvious pivotal price point. But the correction stopped at $30,000, or just below.The conclusion I drew – and on current evidence wrongly drew – was that, as bitcoin matured, its volatility was declining. The 90% corrections of previous bull markets were now 50%-60% corrections.

Bitcoin had a second run above $60,000 in the autumn, followed by another of its humongous corrections, and lo and behold, $30,000 held again (actually just below, but I use round numbers as they are more readable).

As an asset, bitcoin has become highly correlated to the Nasdaq and tech stocks and, as we all know, tech stocks have been walloped. Peloton, for example, which we wrote about yesterday, is down over 90%.So over the past fortnight, I was quite encouraged to see bitcoin holding up quite well relative to other tech stocks. $30,000 looked like it was a floor.

Then we got the collapse in the protocol Terra, and its so-called stablecoin UST, which John covered earlier in the week, and the sector has been absolutely battered.This is big, and it’s going to take some recovering from. The bubble of 2016 was verging-on the-fraudulent ICOs. Today it’s staking and stable coins. The yields on staking – over 20% in some cases – were unsustainable and so they have not been sustained. (If you’re baffled as to what I’m talking about here, don’t worry, you haven’t missed out and at this stage it’s very much for the best).

Hundreds of thousands of people have lost money, in some cases fortunes, and the reputational damage to crypto is considerable. All those who declared that “crypto is a fraud” are now looking wise, while those, myself to an extent included, who made the argument that bitcoin is a hedge against currency debasement are looking stupid, given that it is off some 65% from its highs.

Bitcoin will survive (again) but it’s likely to hit $20,000 and could go even lower

Of course, bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are not one and the same. Bitcoin remains a product of technical and open-source genius, but forever in its wake, and surrounding it, are disasters, gaffes, frauds and scams.Altcoins, NFTs, the Metaverse, Defi, staking, whatever the latest buzz thing is – all of it is puking value, and the bubble has well and truly burst. Again.

And there lies the keyword – again. This is not the first time this has happened, and it will not be the last. And, for all the junk that surrounds it, bitcoin keeps plodding on. As I write it sits at $27,500. I can’t see how it doesn’t retest $20,000 in the coming days.

We hope $20,000 holds, but these are horrible, horrible, horrible markets – and I’m not just talking about crypto. It was oil going bananas in 2008, rising to $150 a barrel, which triggered that collapse. It seems like something not too dissimilar is happening now, following oil’s spike to $130 last month.

There will be a lot of forced sellers out there – leveraged players (those using borrowed money) and so on. So we are going to see a lot of liquidation. My advice, if you own quality assets, and you don’t have to sell, is not to.

Gold, bitcoin, good companies – whatever. Their price may go lower, but if you are not confident you can beat the market, then don’t sell. Because just as bubbles always burst, so does quality always come good. And bitcoin itself – I’m not talking about other cryptocurrenciesbitcoin itself is a quality asset.

There’s even a chance it could go back to its corona-panic lows of March 2020. Heck, everything else seems to be going that way. That would take us to $3,000. I would have thought that unlikely, but never say never, especially in these markets. If you think you can beat the market, as I say, go for it. If not, HODL quality. Don’t trade it.

By: Dominic Frisby

Source: Cryptocurrencies are crashing – so how low will bitcoin go? | MoneyWeek

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Will Inflation And The Stock Market Conspire To Kill The 4% Rule?

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A recent WSJ headline sent chills down the backs of every retiree—”Cut Your Retirement Spending Now, Says Creator of the 4% Rule.”

In the article, the WSJ quoted the father of the 4% rule, William Bengen, as saying that “there’s no precedent for today’s conditions.” Stock and bond prices are still at record highs. Mix in a reference to 8.5% inflation, and the WSJ starts to sound like an insurance salesperson pitching indexed annuities.

So are things really that bad? And do retirees need to rethink the 4% Rule? I don’t think so, and here’s why.

The 4% Rule is Now the 4.4% Rule

In the article, Mr. Bengen said he believes a safe initial withdrawal rate is 4.4%. Yes, that’s an increase from his initial findings in his 1994 paper.

In his 1994 paper, he assumed retirees invested in the S&P 500 and intermediate Treasury bonds. That’s it. Since then he expanded the asset classes to include mid-cap, small-cap, micro-cap and international stocks. This diversification caused him to increase the safe withdrawal rate from 4% to 4.7%. Because of the unprecedented conditions noted above, however, new retirees might want to start at 4.4%, he said.

As far as I can tell, the 4.4% rate is not based on data. Still, it represents a 10% increase, not decrease, from his initial 4% rule. That doesn’t sound so bad.

“The combination of 8.5% inflation with high stock and bond market valuations make it difficult to forecast whether the standard playbook will work for recent retirees,” said Bengen. He’s even gone so far as put 70% of his personal portfolio in cash. When the father of the 4% rule cashes out, shouldn’t we?

I don’t think so. For starters, it’s important to understand how Bengen developed the 4% Rule. He examined 50-year retirement periods dating back to 1926. For each, he identified the highest withdrawal rate one could take in the first year of retirement, adjusted for inflation in subsequent years, without running out of money for at least 30 years.

As you might imagine, every year had a different initial withdrawal rate. Some years the starting rate was twice what it was in others. Here’s the key point. He didn’t average all of these initial withdrawal rates to come up with the 4% rule. He took the absolute worst year—1968.

Here’s more on how the 4% Rule works.

What does this mean? It means the 4% Rule has survived the stock market crash of 1929, the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the inflation of the 1970s and early 1908s, the 1987 market crash, 9/11, the Great Recession and Covid-19.

Stock Prices

No matter how difficult past times have been, current conditions feel awful in ways that history never can. One need look no further than Robert Shiller’s CAPE (cyclically adjusted price-to-earnings ratio) of the S&P 500 to raise concerns. It stands at roughly twice its average and at historic highs. It’s only been higher once, and that was during the tech bubble.

Yet as “unprecedented” as this may seem, it’s not for two reasons. First, most portfolios don’t have the same PE as the S&P 500, even if measured using CAPE. Add in mid-cap, small-cap and international stocks, and the PE comes down significantly.

Second, and more important, the CAPE of the S&P 500 would fall to average with a 50% decline in the S&P 500. This wouldn’t be fun, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented, either.

As noted above, the market lost 90% to kick off the Great Depression. And going back to the tech bubble, the market lost 9%, 12% and 22% from 2000 to 2002. That’s not quite a 50% total loss, but close. And from peak to trough during the Great Recession (2007-2009), the market lost more than 50%. The 4% Rule survived like a cockroach.

Bond Prices and Inflation

Bond yields were at historic lows. I say “were” because that’s no longer the case. The roughly 3% yield on the 10-year Treasury is still below average, but there are plenty of years dating back to the 1800s when they were lower. And when Bengen published his 1994 paper, TIPS were three years away and the first I bond was still four years away. So at least now we can keep up with inflation.

Here’s the key. The 4% Rule has survived Treasury yields as low as 1 to 2%. It also survived inflation of more than 13% and a decade of inflation at 6% or higher. And like the Energizer Bunny, it keeps going and going (or ticking for you Timex fans).

Final Thoughts

Some year might come along that is worse than 1968 for new retirees. Maybe 2022 will turn out to be a worse time to retiree since the late 60s. Perhaps in 30 years we’ll know that for 2022, the initial safe withdrawal rate was 4.2% instead of 4.4%.

But can we really predict that based on current conditions, when the 4% rule has survived much worse? I don’t think so.

Rob is a Contributing Editor for Forbes Advisor, host of the Financial Freedom Show, and the author of Retire Before Mom and Dad–The Simple Numbers Behind a Lifetime of

Source: Will Inflation And The Stock Market Conspire To Kill The 4% Rule?

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Investors Buy Oil on Inflation Fears, Pushing Prices Even Higher

Luc Filip doesn’t work at a big energy company or an industrial manufacturer. He isn’t a day trader or an OPEC official. But he is still helping drive the surge in oil prices.

Mr. Filip is head of investments at SYZ Private Banking in Switzerland, and his big concern is inflation taking a bite out of the $28.5 billion of clients’ investments he manages. So he has been buying oil.

Fund managers like Mr. Filip are contributing to a rally that has pushed oil prices to their highest level since the 2014 energy bust. While energy-futures markets are more typically the province of producers and commodities-focused hedge funds, an oil rally that shows no signs of slowing is now exerting a pull on traditional money managers who run portfolios of stocks and bonds.

Because commodities prices tend to rise alongside inflation, they can protect investment portfolios against its erosive effects. When combined with other commodities like copper and gold, energy is “quite a decent hedge,” said Mr. Filip, who has been buying energy futures and selling longer-dated bonds that will lose value if inflation turns out to be high for longer than expected.

To be sure, inflation fears aren’t the main driver of the West Texas benchmark’s run from $62 a barrel in August to $85 this week. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has stuck to its plan to increase production in small increments. A shortage of natural gas has caused some industrial manufacturers to switch to diesel, which is refined from oil.

Untangling these inputs is hard. But traders and analysts say that some of the recent oil gains could be explained by inflation worries, especially on days with no news about supply that might drive trading by the usual players such as commodities brokers and oil producers.

What the Inflation of the 1970s Can Teach Us Today. The U.S. inflation rate reached a 13-year high recently, triggering a debate about whether the country is entering an inflationary period similar to the 1970s.

In one sign of investors’ interest, money has been pouring into funds that buy energy futures and stocks, accelerating just as inflation fears took center stage this fall. These funds have experienced four straight weeks of inflows for the first time since the spring, with last week’s $753 million the highest weekly total in five months, according to data provider EPFR.

Data from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission showed a rise in speculative buying of crude-oil futures and options in the week to Oct. 19. Bets on $100-a-barrel oil—a price last seen seven years ago—surged earlier this summer. This month, investors have put wagers on $200.

These investors, especially those that are newcomers or buying for ancillary reasons like inflation fears, are taking the risk that a sudden shock could send oil prices plummeting. That happened in the spring of 2020, when demand collapsed due to the Covid-19 pandemic just as Saudi Arabia ramped up production.

What is more, energy is a major contributor to the consumer-price index, the broadest measure of inflation. That means that investing in energy as a hedge against rising prices can be a self-reinforcing cycle: As oil prices rise, so does inflation, which sends money managers like Mr. Filip back to the energy market to reup their protection.

“People buy oil, that boosts inflation expectations, and that can feed on itself,” said Evan Brown, head of asset allocation at UBS Asset Management.

Inflation has gone from an expected and natural consequence of economies emerging from lockdowns to a major source of investor angst. Higher prices eat into yields on fixed-rate bonds and loans. Stocks of companies that can’t as easily pass on higher costs to customers tend to take a hit, too.

Some investors have bet that oil prices could rise to $200 a barrel.

U.S. consumer prices in September rose at a 5.4% annual rate, faster than in August and just below a 30-year high. Germany’s 4.5% annual rate in October was the biggest year-to-year increase since 1993.

Central bankers in the U.S. and Europe say higher prices are likely temporary and will ease as supply-chain delays are resolved and economies work through restart creaks. But investors aren’t so sure. In addition to more traditional inflation hedges, such as bonds whose yields are linked to consumer prices, they are flocking to commodities.

SHARE YOUR THOUGHTS

How concerned are you about inflation? Join the conversation below.

Mr. Brown, who helps devise portfolios for some $1.2 trillion of client assets at UBS, is recommending commodity futures, energy stocks and currencies of oil-rich countries such as Russia and Canada. John Roe, head of multiasset funds at Legal & General Investment Management, said he is protecting his investments against runaway prices with Chilean pesos, which are linked to copper prices, and shares in gold miners.

So far the strategy appears to be working. Inflation is rising but so are the prices of energy and many metals. Paul O’Connor, head of multiasset at Janus Henderson, warned that might not last.

Today’s inflation is being driven by gummed-up supply chains that have created shortages of nearly everything, pushing the prices of raw materials higher. But he expects future inflation to be driven more by rising wages, and it is less clear if that would have the same effect on commodity prices. “Quite questionable,” he said of the strategy.

By: Anna Hirtenstein

Anna Hirtenstein is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal in London, covering financial markets. She was previously a reporter at Bloomberg in London, an investment banker at Greentech Capital Advisors in Zurich and has also worked as a field correspondent with a focus on oil in Northern Iraq and West Africa. 

Source: Investors Buy Oil on Inflation Fears, Pushing Prices Even Higher – WSJ

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Ng, Abigail (14 October 2021). “Goldman Sachs says oil prices could be higher for much longer”. CNBC. Retrieved 18 October 2021.

Shine on Sustainable Bonds Wears Off, Especially for Riskiest Borrowers

Rising regulatory scrutiny is damping investor appetite for sustainable bonds, especially those issued by riskier companies. Bonds sold to fund environmentally friendly projects and companies generally fetch higher prices and lower yields than conventional bonds. This “greenium,” though, has been shrinking in recent weeks as global regulators forge ahead on new disclosure rules and investors start to look more closely at companies’ claims about sustainability.

The selloff is sharpest for high-yield sustainable bonds, whose price premium over comparable conventional bonds has nearly halved since early September, dropping to 0.17 percentage point from 0.30, according to ICE bond indexes. The yield on a broad index of sustainable junk-rated bonds has risen to 3.82% from 3.33% over the same period. Yields rise when prices fall.

The greenium for investment-grade bonds has shrunk, too, though more slowly, halving since April to 0.03 percentage point.

Sustainable investing—also known by the acronym ESG for its environmental, social and governance factors—has attracted hundreds of billions of dollars, but until recently there has been little consensus about what qualifies as a green asset. Money managers are increasingly worried about being duped by companies exaggerating their sustainability bona fides. They are also having to prove the claims they make to their investors about how they evaluate green investments.

In a bellwether case, the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether Deutsche Bank AG’s asset-management arm lived up to claims it made about its ESG investing criteria. A whistleblower and internal emails say that only a fraction of its assets went through a sustainability assessment, contrary to the firm’s public statements. DWS has said it stands by its disclosures.

This new scrutiny is prompting some investors to be more careful when assessing sustainable bonds, particularly those sold by lower-rated issuers, which tend to be smaller and disclose less about their businesses, said Tatjana Greil Castro, a credit portfolio manager at Muzinich & Co.

“There is definitely an understanding that you cannot just slap on your tick-box approach,” she said. Market dynamics may be partly to blame, too. Inflows into sustainable-investment funds haven’t kept pace with a flood of new issuances.

Investors put $95 billion into ESG funds in the second quarter, down from $142 billion in the first, according to the latest available data from Morningstar. Meanwhile, issuance of sustainable bonds stayed relatively stable, with $295 billion in the second quarter and $299 billion in the first, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

With less money earmarked for green assets spread across more deals, investors can be choosier about which to buy and can negotiate higher yields.

Sustainable debt sold by higher-rated issuers are still finding strong demand. The yield on the European Union’s first-ever common green bond has fallen from 0.45% when it was issued Oct. 12 to 0.37% as of Wednesday. Investors piled into the U.K.’s debut green bond last month, which priced at a yield of 0.87%.

But corporate borrowers, especially those with lower credit ratings, are finding less appetite for their debt in the secondary market. A green bond issued by Daimler AG was yielding 0.51% on Wednesday, compared with 0.52% for the German auto maker’s comparable conventional bond. In February, the green bond was yielding 0.16 percentage point less.

A green junk bond issued by Ardagh Metal Packaging SA was yielding 2.20% on Wednesday, up from 1.81% in mid-September.

By: Anna Hirtenstein

Anna Hirtenstein is a reporter at The Wall Street Journal in London, covering financial markets. She was previously a reporter at Bloomberg in London, an investment banker at Greentech Capital Advisors in Zurich and has also worked as a field correspondent with a focus on oil in Northern Iraq and West Africa.

Source: Shine on Sustainable Bonds Wears Off, Especially for Riskiest Borrowers – WSJ

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How To Squeeze Yields Up To 6.9% From Blue-Chip Stocks

Closeup of blue poker chip on red felt card table surface with spot light on chip

Preferred stocks are the little-known answer to the dividend question: How do I juice meaningful 5% to 6% yields from my favorite blue-chip stocks? “Common” blue chips stocks usually don’t pay 5% to 6%. Heck, the S&P 500’s current yield, at just 1.3%, is its lowest in decades.

But we can consider the exact same 505 companies in the popular index—names like JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Broadcom (AVGO) and NextEra Energy (NEE)—and find yields from 4.2% to 6.9%. If we’re talking about a million dollar retirement portfolio, this is the difference between $13,000 in annual dividend income and $42,000. Or, better yet, $69,000 per year with my top recommendation.

Most investors don’t know about this easy-to-find “dividend loophole” because most only buy “common” stock. Type AVGO into your brokerage account, and the quote that your machine spits back will be the common variety.

But many companies have another class of shares. This “preferred payout tier” delivers dividends that are far more generous.

Companies sometimes issue preferred stock rather than issuing bonds to raise cash. And these preferred dividends have a few benefits:

  • They receive priority over dividends paid on common shares.
  • Sometimes, preferred dividends are “cumulative”—if any dividends are missed, those dividends still have to be paid out before dividends can be paid to any other shareholders.
  • They’re typically far juicier than the modest dividends paid out on common stock. A company whose commons yield 1% or 2% might still distribute 5% to 7% to preferred shareholders.

But it’s not all gravy.

You’ll sometimes hear investors call preferreds “hybrid” securities. That’s because they act like a part-stock, part-bond holding. The way they resemble bonds is how they trade around a par value over time, so while preferreds can deliver price upside, they don’t tend to deliver much.

No, the point of preferreds is income and safety.

Now, we could go out and buy individual preferreds, but there’s precious little research out there allowing us to make a truly informed decision about any one company’s preferreds. Instead, we’re usually going to be better off buying preferred funds.

But which preferred funds make the cut? Let’s look at some of the most popular options, delivering anywhere between 4.2% to 6.9% at the moment.

Wall Street’s Two Largest Preferred ETFs

I want to start with the iShares Preferred and Income Securities (PFF, 4.2% yield) and Invesco Preferred ETF (PGX, 4.5%). These are the two largest preferred-stock ETFs on the market, collectively accounting for some $27 billion in funds under management.

On the surface, they’re pretty similar in nature. Both invest in a few hundred preferred stocks. Both have a majority of their holdings in the financial sector (PFF 60%, PGX 67%). Both offer affordable fees given their specialty (PFF 0.46%, PGX 0.52%).

There are a few notable differences, however. PGX has a better credit profile, with 54% of its preferreds in BBB-rated (investment-grade debt) and another 38% in BB, the highest level of “junk.” PFF has just 48% in BBB-graded preferreds and 22% in BBs; nearly a quarter of its portfolio isn’t rated.

Also, the Invesco fund spreads around its non-financial allocation to more sectors: utilities, real estate, communication services, consumer discretionary, energy, industrials and materials. Meanwhile, iShares’ PFF only boasts industrial and utility preferreds in addition to its massive financial-sector base.

PGX might have the edge on PFF, but both funds are limited by their plain-vanilla, indexed nature. That’s why, when it comes to preferreds, I typically look to closed-end funds.

Closed-End Preferred Funds

CEFs offer a few perks that allow us to make the most out of this asset class.

For one, most preferred ETFs are indexed, but all preferred CEFs are actively managed. That’s a big advantage in preferred stocks, where skilled pickers can take advantage of deep values and quick changes in the preferred markets, while index funds must simply wait until their next rebalancing to jump in.

Closed-end funds also allow for the use of debt to amplify their investments, both in yield and performance. Should the manager want, CEFs can also use options or other tools to further juice returns.

And they often pay out their fatter dividends every month!

Take John Hancock Preferred Income Fund II (HPF, 6.9% yield), for example. It’s a tighter portfolio than PFF or PGX, at just under 120 holdings from the likes of CenterPoint Energy (CNP), U.S. Cellular (USM) and Wells Fargo (WFC).

Manager discretion means a lot here. That is, HPF doesn’t just invest in preferreds, which are 70% of assets. It also has 22% invested in corporate bonds, another 4% or so in common stock, and trace holdings of foreign stock, U.S. government agency debt and cash. And it has a whopping 32% debt leverage ratio that really helps prop up the yield and provide better returns (though at the cost of a bumpier ride).

You have a similar situation with Flaherty & Crumrine Preferred and Income Securities Fund (FFC, 6.7%).

Here, you’re wading deep into the financial sector at nearly 80% exposure, with decent-sized holdings in utilities (7%) and energy (7%). Credit quality is roughly in between PFF and PGX, with 44% BBB, 37% BB and 19% unrated.

Nonetheless, smart management selection (and a healthy 31% in debt leverage) has led to far better, albeit noisier, returns than its indexed competitors. The Cohen & Steers Select Preferred and Income Fund (PSF, 6.0%) is about as pure a play as you could want in preferreds.

And it’s also a pure performer.

PSF is 100% invested in preferred stock (well, more like 128% if you count debt leverage), and actually breaks out its preferreds into institutionals that trade over-the-counter (83%), retail preferreds that trade on an exchange (16%) and floating-rate preferreds that trade OTC or on exchanges (1%).

Like any other preferred fund, you’re heavily invested in the financial sector at nearly 73%. But you do get geographic diversification, as only a little more than half of PSF’s assets are invested in the U.S. Other well-represented countries include the U.K. (13%), Canada (7%) and France (6%).

What’s not to love?

Brett Owens is chief investment strategist for Contrarian Outlook. For more great income ideas, get your free copy his latest special report: Your Early Retirement Portfolio: 7% Dividends Every Month Forever.

I graduated from Cornell University and soon thereafter left Corporate America permanently at age 26 to co-found two successful SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. Today they serve more than 26,000 business users combined. I took my software profits and started investing in dividend-paying stocks. Today, it’s almost impossible to find good stocks that pay a quality yield. So I employ a contrarian approach to locate high payouts that are available thanks to some sort of broader misjudgment. Renowned billionaire investor Howard Marks called this “second-level thinking.” It’s looking past the consensus belief about an investment to map out a range of probabilities to locate value. It is possible to find secure yields of 6% or more in today’s market – it just requires a second-level mindset.

Source: How To Squeeze Yields Up To 6.9% From Blue-Chip Stocks

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Critics:

A blue chip is stock in a stock corporation (contrasted with non-stock one) with a national reputation for quality, reliability, and the ability to operate profitably in good and bad times. As befits the sometimes high-risk nature of stock picking, the term “blue chip” derives from poker. The simplest sets of poker chips include white, red, and blue chips, with tradition dictating that the blues are highest in value. If a white chip is worth $1, a red is usually worth $5, and a blue $25.

In 19th-century United States, there was enough of a tradition of using blue chips for higher values that “blue chip” in noun and adjective senses signaling high-value chips and high-value property are attested since 1873 and 1894, respectively. This established connotation was first extended to the sense of a blue-chip stock in the 1920s. According to Dow Jones company folklore, this sense extension was coined by Oliver Gingold (an early employee of the company that would become Dow Jones) sometime in the 1920s, when Gingold was standing by the stock ticker at the brokerage firm that later became Merrill Lynch.

Noticing several trades at $200 or $250 a share or more, he said to Lucien Hooper of stock brokerage W.E. Hutton & Co. that he intended to return to the office to “write about these blue-chip stocks”. It has been in use ever since, originally in reference to high-priced stocks, more commonly used today to refer to high-quality stocks.

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