ETFs

All posts tagged ETFs

Almost exactly a year ago, I mentioned a paired-trade investment between the long-term Bond ETF (TLT) and short-term corporate/sovereign bond ETF (AWF).  I went long AWF and shorted an equal dollar amount of TLT. Last week, I closed the position after holding it for just over a year.

When I entered the trade, AWF was trading for $8.29 and had a yield of 13.4%, while my short position in TLT was trading at $112.10 and had a yield of 3.5%.  When I close out my position a year later, AWF had a price of $13.10 and a yield of 8.6%, while TLT was going for $91.65 and yielding 3.9%.

I made about 63% on the long AWF position and 18% on the short TLT position. Coupled with the 9.9% net dividend yield, that trade made me ~91%. Not a bad return for a year and 4 days.  Bond yields don’t usually move 500 basis points in a year. No point being greedy. Time to bank some profit!

paired-trade-awf-tlt-returns

A drop in the stock market will cause the price of bonds to move up, since they typically are inversely correlated. Similarly a sharp rise in in yields would cause bonds price to drop. I expect a move in TLT to about roughly $96 at which point I might renter the position depending on the larger macro-economic picture.

This guest post comes from Kevin at 20smoney.com, a blog covering financial topics such as investing, money management and the development of income streams.

Despite the fact that most people tend to think that a market that has already booked a 60%+ rally is a great time to be invested in stocks, I tend to lean the opposite direction.  With such a massive run already in place, the risk/reward scenario is not nearly as good as it was when compared to earlier in the rally.  So, how should you play the current environment?

The sectors with some of the largest gains this year have been technology and financials.  As such, these sectors warrant extreme caution if you are currently long or are getting long any companies within these sectors.  If you want to be long the sector, but aren’t sure of specific stocks, consider mutual funds or ETFs such as Financial Select Spider (XLF) and Technology Spider (XLK).

If you’re looking to gain exposure in these sectors, I strongly encourage you to monitor some basic technical signals so that you can identify a clear exit point in case the broad market and/or these sectors reverse and head lower.  Watch the 20 and 50 day moving averages.  If the stock (or ETF) breaks through these key averages, be ready to exit the position.  If you don’t feel comfortable with such a strategy and want to take a more long term focus, I would then wait for a significant pullback, at least 5%, to enter your position.  Remember, you’ve already missed a large run in stocks, and you need to be careful entering a position at these levels.

If you have held stocks this year, especially in the sectors named above, you may consider actually selling some of your positions to lock in profits.  Taking profits is never a bad idea, and if you don’t want to pull out completely, simply sell half or maybe a third of your position.

If you are looking to enter other long term positions, I would point you towards dividend paying companies that will pay you to hold them.  This will help offset any losses in share price if there is a reversal in the markets.  Also consider multi-national companies that generate a significant portion of their earnings from abroad (this will help you hedge against weakness in the U.S. economy).  In this category, consider Philip Morris International (PM), Wal-Mart (WMT), McDonalds (MCD) and perhaps Microsoft (MSFT).

For me personally, I’m pretty bearish on the economy and the markets.  I’m skeptical on the strength and durability of the recovery and the stock market rally.  I believe that we have structural issues with our economy that have not been addressed and therefore will prevent real growth.  I’m not adding to any positions in the current environment, rather I’m “keeping my powder dry” waiting for much more attractive buying opportunities.  I do own gold related instruments such as GLD and GDX because I think gold has the potential to perform well in both an inflationary recovery and a deflationary environment (pretty much the only asset with this ability).

As I mentioned above, if you’re looking to try and make a few bucks on the continued rally in the broad markets, be extra careful and be ready to exit by monitoring some key technical sell indicators.  Protecting your money is a better strategy, in my opinion, than chasing returns, especially today.  If you’re a long term believer in the recovery and the future of the economy, get long some solid companies, but don’t be afraid to be patient and wait for better entry points.

The market has been defying gravity this summer, with the S&P500 up 49% since March. But most of the appreciation has been in what I consider lower quality stocks. Many homebuilders with doubtful prospects have doubled from their recent lows, while stocks that are somewhat recession proof like McDonalds, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Procter & Gamble have bounced a mere 15-20%.

According to Bloomberg, “companies with the worst earnings led the 45 percent gain in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index since it fell to a 12-year low five months ago”. It might be a good time to sell some of your winners that have exceptionally well and either wait for a pull-back, or if you’re trigger happy, buy solid investment-grade companies.

Given the current economic environment with the US Dollar likely to devalue against foreign currencies and the high probability of inflation, you want to invest in a company with exposure to foreign markets, a stable business model that is non-cyclical and a history of growing dividends. You also want to avoid luxury brands or businesses that sell expensive goods.

Here are a few of the companies that I would consider looking at, along with their dividend yields.

  • Verizon Communications (VZ): 5.87%
  • Johnson & Johnson (JNJ): 3.21%
  • Procter & Gamble (PG): 3.28%
  • Colgate-Palmolive (CL): 2.41%
  • Unilever (UL): 4.39%
  • Altria Group (MO): 7.10%
  • Philip Morris International (PM): 4.61%
  • McDonalds (MCD): 3.55%
  • Walmart (WMT): 2.51%
  • Enerplus Resources Fund (ERF): 9.56%

While I don’t own any of these yet (except ERF), I do own some ETFs that hedge against dollar devaluation and inflation:

  • CurrencyShares Australian Dollar Trust (FXA): 2.04%
  • Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Domestic Debt Fund (EDD): 7.45%
  • Market Vectors TR Gold Miners (GDX): 1.90%

If you are going to buy currency ETFs or currencies you might want to also check out some of the risk-free currency CDs offered by Everbank. At the very least, definitely subscribe to their free newsletter, the Daily Pfennig. It’s quite informative and very interesting.

ETFconnect.com is a great site to find out more information about ETFs.  Having some exposure to foreign currency and gold miners isn’t a bad idea. I’ve been worrying about the effects of the Federal Reserve printing money like its going out of style and the CEO of Coeur d’Alene (CDE), a silver mining company that I happen to own, predicts that Silver will jump 29% by the end of the year because of this.

Demand from investors seeking a store of wealth accounts for more than half of silver’s 23 percent price jump this year before today, Wheeler said in an interview in New York. The metal will reach $18 an ounce with supplies little changed and demand buoyed by purchases from exchange-traded funds, he said.

“We have this crushing new debt and dollar weakness,” Wheeler said today. “The outlook for precious metals is very positive, and silver will be No. 1.”

The U.S. government has pledged $12.8 trillion, an amount that approaches U.S. gross domestic product, in a bid to stem the longest recession since the 1930s. The spending will erode the value of the dollar and boost the appeal of silver and gold as alternative assets, Wheeler said.

“There’s a lot of anxiety out there over this debt,” Wheeler said. “Around the world, there are a growing number of investors who want protection. They’re going to want silver as part of their portfolio.”

If you believe any of this, you might want to increase your exposure to silver miners like CDE, SSRI or SLW, although these don’t pay any dividends.

Disclosure: I own ERF, CDE, FXA, GDX, EDD, physical gold and silver.

Thanks to a link on ZeroHedge, I read this report by Project Mayhem Research Inc. According to the report, the iShares SLV and London-based ETFS physical silver funds both have inaccurate records regarding the levels of physical silver inventory. The report states that there is significant duplication of silver  and the actual amounts are lower than reported. This indicates a high statistical likelihood of “systematic fraud or gross neligence” in the accounting of both silver ETFs. Since silver ETFs are now accepted forms of delivery on the COMEX (futures trading exchange) proper accounting is the only way establish proper silver price discovery. No wonder prices of silver are so low! There’s fraud everywhere!

Silveretfs 1 PDF

If you’re buying silver or gold as an insurance policy against financial disaster, it makes sense to hold the actual commodity in its physical form rather than a piece of paper. If you’re buying such humongous quantities that you  must buy paper, buy the Perth Mint Silver Certificates instead.

For the rest of you regular folk, just buy silver coins like peace silver dollars or silver bars.  And if you like to collect pretty shiny objects, silver coins are the way to go! Collecting American silver coins is a great way to introduce your kids to the value of money and savings!

Previously I had mentioned several ways to invest for a recession or a major downturn in the US economy. In that post, I stated that one of the ways to hedge against the declining dollar (apart from my favorite method of buying gold) was investing in foreign currencies.

Several people emailed me asking how to buy foreign currencies.

A few were concerned that they would have to travel overseas and open a foreign bank account. Luckily, it isn’t so difficult. You have 3 choices.

1. Buy Currencyshares ETFs. You can choose between several currencies like Australian Dollar (Ticker: FXA), Swiss Franc (Ticker: FXF), Japanese Yen (Ticker: FXY), Euro (Ticker: FXE), etc. If you have a brokerage account, its as easy as buying stock. This is probably the easiest method. They also pay monthly dividends and are quite similar to buying a foreign currency CD.

2. Open on account with Everbank and invest in their foreign currencies CDs or directly open an account in a foreign currency.

3. Open on account with Interactive Brokers and directly buy foreign currency (this is probably the most hassle so you’re better off sticking with the top 2 methods).

If you’re interested in buying foreign stocks, the easiest way is to buy the ADRs (American Depository Receipts). However a lot of foreign stocks do not trade in the US as ADRs. A good way to play the foreign markets is to buy foreign ETFs. For example, if you’d like to buy blue chip dividend paying swiss companies, the Swiss Helvetia Fund (ticker: SWZ) is a great investment. (I also happen to like the Swiss Helvetia Gold Coins too!). If you think Singapore’s economy is doing well, you can buy the iShares Singapore Index ETF (ticker: EWS). Or if you like Brazil, you can buy the iShares Brazil Index (ticker: EWZ).

For a more comprehensive list of foreign ETFs check out How To Conquer The World For Fun & Profit. If you’re interested in learning more about currency trading or investing in foreign currencies, I strongly recommend Everbank’s free daily newsletter about the currency markets, the Daily Pfennig. It’s really good.

Jim Rogers doesn’t have any faith in the US financial companies. According to Bloomberg:

Jim Rogers, co-founder of the Quantum Hedge Fund with billionaire George Soros, boosted his bets against U.S. securities firms because of their salary “excesses” and money-losing investments.

Rogers said he increased his year-old short positions in the past six weeks in U.S. investment banks, using exchange-traded funds and bets against individual companies he declined to name. Stocks in the industry, which pays too much in bonuses, may fall as much as 70 percent in a bear market, he said.

“You see 29-year-olds on Wall Street making $10 million to $20 million a year, and they think it’s normal,” Rogers, 65, said in an interview in London today.

The top five U.S. securities firms will probably earn a combined $29.3 billion this year, according to analysts surveyed by Bloomberg, breaking a three-year record streak after Merrill Lynch & Co. reported a $2.2 billion third-quarter loss. Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, Merrill, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. earned $30.7 billion last year, three times more than their profit in 2002.

Goldman Sachs, Wall Street’s most-profitable securities firm, said Sept. 20 that it set aside $16.9 billion to pay salaries, benefits and bonuses in the first nine months of the year, topping the record amount for all of last year.

A month later, Merrill Lynch reported its biggest quarterly loss amid $8.4 billion of writedowns for subprime mortgages, asset-backed bonds and bad loans.

Jim Rogers is short via the use of ETFs. One way you can get in on the action is through UltraShort Financials ProShares (SKF). SKF is a leveraged ETF that returns twice the daily inverse of the Dow Jones Financials Index.

Recently financials like Bank of America, Citigroup and Bear Stearns have reported pretty bad news. Seems like SKF would be a safer bet than shorting any of these companies themselves.