As our readers will know, we spent the better part of last week at the Inside ETFs conference. As part of our time there, we are planning to feature a couple of ETFs which we think might be interesting to advisors. The first one we want to feature is a special fund from Legg Mason, the fund is called the Legg Mason Low Volatility High Dividend ETF (LVHD). We were lucky enough to meet with one of the fund’s specialists, Josh Greco, at the conference, and his passion for the fund’s approach really shined through. The fund’s own words describe it best, it seeks to track “the investment results of an underlying index composed of equity securities of U.S. companies with relatively high yield and low price and earnings volatility … LVHD may benefit investors who want income but are concerned about the volatility that can come from traditional equity income investments”. Basically, the idea is to get yield and upside, without so much of the volatility that is traditionally associated with equities. Mr. Greco contextualized the utility of the approach succinctly and convincingly, explaining that as clients’ lives elongate they are going to need to stay in equities longer to get capital appreciation. Accordingly, this fund seeks to de-risk some of that necessary exposure while still giving significant upside and yield. The fund has about $600m in AUM, is widely available, has an expense ratio of 0.27%, and a dividend yield of 3.48%.
FINSUM: In our mind, this fund does an excellent job of fusing some of the best elements of fixed income (yields and less volatility) with the best part of stocks (capital appreciation). It may be a great fit for older clients that need to keep a significant allocation to equities. It is also quite affordable at 0.27%.
Dividend stocks have not been looking as appealing lately because of the rise in rates. Yields on even short-term assets now look much more attractive than the near zero coupons that were being offered a few years ago. That said, dividend stocks have a special niche within a portfolio, and it is not hard to find some very solid stocks with good yields. One of the best ways to buy dividend stocks is through an ETF that can select a large and balanced group. With that in mind, here are three ETFs to do just that: ProShares Dividend Aristocrat ETF (NOBL), the SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY), and the Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF (VIG).
FINSUM: With the Fed showing dovishness on rates, the outlook for dividend stocks has suddenly brightened.
Are you hoping for a return to big company buybacks? For the few years before last year’s big losses, buybacks were a big part of the nice returns seen by the market. A return to such behavior, while questionable on the part of companies, would likely help support share prices. Well, JP Morgan thinks it’ll be another major year for buybacks. Just like last year, companies are expected to announce over $1 tn of buybacks on the back of the benefits from Trump’s tax cuts. Overseas cash is expected to help power the repurchases.
FINSUM: We are not particular fond of the underlying financials of buybacks (at least when companies issue debt to do so), but do think this would be very supportive of share prices this year.
2018 was a tough year for most income investors. Rates rose considerably, making the dividend yield of the market look rather poor compared to many other short-term assets. Strong corporate dividend hikes helped, but the big question is what will happen in 2019. Most analysts think the pace of dividend hikes will slow, but so will the pace of rate hikes, meaning that income stocks seem likely to do well. Dividends rose 9% this year and are expected to rise 6% in 2019.
FINSUM: Goldman says that financial firms will raise their dividends by 16% in 2019, more than any other sector. Perhaps that is a good place to look.
It might not always feel like it, but rising rates are good if you are an income investor. Rates are most definitely rising. Treasury yields are up strongly and the Fed is hiking quarterly. That can cause some rate driven losses even as yields on fixed income assets rise. One fund manager summarized the risks and benefits this way, saying “Rising rates and/or lower equity valuations should lead to higher long-term expected returns, although the movement from low yields to high yields, or high valuations to low valuations, often requires a painful short-term capital loss”.
FINSUM: The move to “low valuations” sounds terrifying as an investor, but the key is to take advantage of higher yields while holding hedged positions.
One of the biggest mistakes that investors might make in this rising rate era is to try to combat rising rates with better yielding bonds. While that strategy can work, especially in short-term bonds with high yields (such as junk bonds), a better strategy is to buy dividend growth stocks. Historically speaking, dividend growth shares have performed well in periods of rising rates, outperforming yield stocks and the broader market. BMO Capital Markets recently put out a piece on the topic, saying that “We prefer to focus on stocks that combine dividend growth and yield characteristics”. Some stocks that meet dividend growth criteria are BlackRock, Bank of America, Union Pacific, and Delta Airlines.
FINSUM: Dividend growth stocks tend to have good capital appreciation during periods of rising rates, which makes them seem like a good bet for this tightening cycle.