Alternatives

Many investors may be looking to diversify their portfolios given recent gains in equities. While there are many options, leveraged index annuities can reduce portfolio risk while still offering some growth potential.  

Leveraged index annuities are typically bought upfront with a single payment. The interest earned on these products is not taxable until it is withdrawn, which also makes them an effective vehicle for saving.  

These annuities are leveraged to a major market index like the S&P 500. Interest is earned when the underlying index appreciates; however, there is no loss of principal in the event that the index suffers losses. 

The tradeoff is that interest earned on the annuity is capped depending on the terms of the annuity agreement. For instance, the maximum earnable rate of interest could be set at 12%. This means that in a year like 2023, when the S&P 500 was up 24%, the annuity owner’s earned interest would be capped at 12%. On the other hand, the annuity owner would have seen no loss of principal when the S&P 500 was down 19% in the previous year.  

This combination makes leveraged index annuities ideal for investors who want to diversify and de-risk their portfolios while still growing their wealth.


Finsum: Leveraged index annuities are a way for investors to reduce risk and increase diversification while still allowing for appreciation. 

According to Bloomberg senior ETF analyst Eric Balchunas, there is only a 25% chance that the SEC approves a spot ethereum ETF. He points to the lack of SEC engagement on the topic and the absence of any positive signs or chatter on the subject, which is a departure from the lead-up to bitcoin’s approval. Balchunas believes this lack of engagement is ‘tactical’ rather than ‘procrastination’. 

The crux of the issue is how ethereum should be classified. There are indications that the SEC is leaning towards treating it like a security based on subpoenas to crypto companies that have interacted with the Ethereum Foundation. 

However, there are some dissenting voices who are more optimistic about approval. Craig Salm, Grayscale’s Chief Legal Officer, says the SEC’s reticence is due to most issues already being cleared up during the bitcoin ETF approval process. He believes both ETFs are nearly identical, except for the underlying asset. He also pointed to the approval of an ethereum futures ETF and its classification as a commodity future as a favorable sign. 

Currently, several asset managers have filed for approval for an ethereum ETF, including Blackrock, VanEck, ARK 21Shares, Fidelity, Invesco Galaxy, Grayscale, Franklin Templeton, and Hashdex. The most immediate deadline is May 23 for VanEck.


Finsum: Over the next couple of months, the SEC will decide on an ethereum ETF. Reading the tea leaves, Bloomberg’s Eric Balchunas is not optimistic that it will be approved. 

Robert Mitchnick, Blackrock’s digital asset lead, believes that bitcoin is more like ‘digital gold’ rather than a ‘risk-on’ asset, despite its strong correlation to equities in recent years. Throughout bitcoin’s existence, there has been a constant debate about its true nature. Some argue that bitcoin is like gold given that there is a fixed supply, which means that it should provide protection against inflation. 

While this may be true in theory, in reality, bitcoin has largely moved in the same direction as equities, which undermines the argument that it offers diversification. In 2022, bitcoin tumbled as the world dealt with the highest levels of inflation in decades. Notably, equities were also down 25% in 2022. In the following year, as equity markets made new highs, bitcoin also followed and made new highs as well. 

Despite this relationship, Mitchnik believes that historically, bitcoin has demonstrated very little correlation to stocks. He attributes the recent rally to excitement around the launch of bitcoin ETFs in the US. In terms of allocation, he recommends between 1 and 3% for investors to provide diversification and differentiated returns. The argument about bitcoin’s nature is germane for investors who want to understand whether it will make their portfolio more risky or more diversified. 


Finsum: There are two camps when it comes to bitcoin. One sees bitcoin as an asset that is closely correlated to equities; while the other believes that bitcoin is more like gold and can help diversify portfolios.

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