Solving The Income Riddle


Portfolio Manager Christopher Hugar comments for the article “Solving the Income Riddle” by Olivier Ludwig.

We suggest investors divorce themselves from the idea that liabilities must be funded by income and income alone. Instead, it’s important to remember there are two ways to generate portfolio returns: either via income or capital gains. What’s more, it’s our view that the current environment has actually skewed return profiles toward the latter, at least in the near term.

Since 2009, quantitative easing has been the response of choice for deflation-fighting central bankers around the world. At its core, QE is specifically designed to suppress yields in an effort to push investors further out on the risk spectrum to reflate asset prices. By their very design, these programs tilt the scale away from income and toward capital gains. It’s suggested that investors shouldn’t “fight” central bankers, and pursuing yield alone in this environment feels a little bit like that.

With the Fed officially ending its QE program in 2014, the United States is now a tough environment for income-seekers and total return-seekers alike. Instead, we suggest investors look abroad. Consider the iShares MSCI EAFE Minimum Volatility ETF (EFAV | B-64), which yields just more than 3.0%. Roughly 40% of the fund is allocated to Japan and the eurozone.

Both are areas that have reasonable valuations, and central bankers are still aggressively pursuing QE, suggesting future gains will more than make up for the shortfall in any 5% yield bogey. As an added bonus, the product is even designed to have a lower-volatility profile—a favorable attribute for most income investors.

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