by Alexander Green, Investment U Chief Investment Strategist
Wednesday, May 22, 2013: Issue #2039
It’s hardly news that there is a dangerous bubble in the bond market. When debt-ridden Uncle Sam can borrow for 10 years at 1.8% and 30 years at 3.1%, something is clearly amiss.
The cause, of course, is Federal Reserve intervention in the bond market. Ben Bernanke is spending hundreds of billions to buy longer-term bonds and force interest rates down.
Pundits will argue about whether this is ultimately a good thing or a bad thing, but there is no denying that in the short run this has given the stock market and the housing market a shot in the arm.
Mortgage rates are near record lows. And with cash paying next to nothing – if not nothing itself – investors are moving into stocks and riskier bonds.
The question for investors, of course, is what will happen when this Fed stimulus ends.
Since it will signal that the Fed believes the economy is strong enough to continue growing without intervention, the Fed’s exit will be a neutral factor for the stock market.
But it will create turmoil in the bond market.
Prices Will Plummet
Picture a seesaw. Interest rates and bond prices are inversely correlated. When interest rates go up, bond prices go down. And vice versa.
So when the biggest player in the bond market – the U.S. Federal Reserve – quits holding rates artificially low they are going to spike higher. And that’s not good for bonds.
Prices will plummet.
How does a fixed-income investor protect himself? There are several ways.
The first is to limit overall exposure to the bond market. Anyone who has half or more of his liquid net worth tied up in historically “safe” bonds – like Treasurys and high-grade corporates – is going to get his head handed to him.
However, it’s important to remember that if you buy a bond at par ($1,000) and interest rates go up, the drop in the market value of your bond (assuming there is no default down the road) is merely temporary. You can ride out a rising interest rate environment and recover your full investment at maturity.
But most fixed-income investors don’t have enough capital to diversify in individual bonds. And there’s the rub. If you own a bond fund, even a U.S. government bond fund, there is no assurance that you will get your principal back ever.
Because the vast majority of funds are forced to keep buying new bonds as interest rates rise. And that means the net asset value will stay under continued pressure.
Fortunately, an innovative new investment vehicle protects you from this problem.
They’re called defined-maturity exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
If you haven’t heard about these, it’s probably because most were only recently launched. They solve the rising interest rate conundrum for bond fund investors.
For example, if you want to buy short-term investment-grade corporate bonds, you might try the Guggenheim BulletShare 2015 Corporate Bond (NYSE: BSCF), maturing on Dec. 31, 2015, and currently yielding 1.93%.
Or, if you prefer the tax-free route, you might try the iShares 2017 S&P AMT-Free Municipal Series (NYSE: MUAF), maturing Aug. 31, 2017.
If you want more yield – and are willing to take more risk – you might try the Guggenheim BulletShares 2018 High Yield Corporate ETF (NYSE: BSJI) with a maturity date of Dec. 21, 2018, and a current yield of 6%.
There are other funds like these to choose from and – gauging by their popularity – many more to come. But the key advantage here is that you can collect the bond’s face value at maturity.
I can’t emphasize enough that closed-end funds and open-end mutual funds don’t mature – and neither do 99.9% of all ETFs. So these funds are truly offering something new and better.
And that something is hard-to-find fixed-income protection against rising rates. And – trust me – it’s only a matter of time.
P.S. My friend and colleague Marc Lichtenfeld has identified a much more lucrative way to play the bubble in bonds. It’s through a unique kind of investment he calls “Spread Trusts.”
When the bubble finally bursts, these trusts are poised to shoot as high as 164% and pay out double-digit income for years.
To learn more about them, click here.
A Hot New Income Play
It’s hardly news that there is a dangerous bubble in the bond market. When debt-ridden Uncle Sam can borrow for 10 years at 1.8% and 30 years at 3.1%, something is clearly amiss. The cause, of course, is Federal Reserve intervention in the bond market.
Goodbye to a Great Teacher
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A Proven Strategy to Build Immense Wealth
Growing up with six siblings, I recall our marathon games of Monopoly with mixed feelings. Tensions ran high because our attitude was a bit like the Kennedys’ – the difference between second place and last place was nothing at all. Monopoly is a great game for many reasons. One is that it reflects personality traits so well.
This Tiny Mining Sector Is About to Soar
Something big is about to strike the mining industry. When it does, savvy investors have a grand opportunity on their hands. It all started back in 1993 when the United States and Russia signed a historic agreement creating what’s called the “Megatons to Megawatts” (MTM) program.
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