For many, many years muni bonds have been the go-to for tax-free income. While their yields were lower than conventional credits, there was usually a significant cost-savings by investing in the bonds because of the lack of taxation. However, the muni market is so over-bought that it is very difficult to find bonds where that is still the case. Prices have moved yields so low that there are virtually no savings versus Treasuries. 2019 saw muni bonds experience their highest inflows since 2009, and according to Morningstar “For most taxpayers, there’s no longer a significant yield advantage for muni funds after you take taxes into account”.
FINSUM: Weak yields and no savings, which is going to push investors to buy ever riskier munis. Boom time coming for lower-rated credits?
Ban of America says it is a very good time for investors to buy TIPS, or Treasury Inflation-protected securities. The bank thinks inflation expectations are going to rise this year and they are bullish on long-dated TIPS. The call is notable as many fund managers lost money with similar bets after the Crisis, when many thought inflation would jump alongside QE. This time may be different as the Fed has explicitly said it would let inflation run hot to compensate for the slow inflation we have had for the last decade.
FINSUM: We just don’t see inflation rising much in the near term. There are still a lot of worries about the economy. We feel like 2019 would have been the year for big inflation worries/rises, but it didn’t materialize.
If you are looking for dividends in this low rate world, you still have some good options. What about dividend growth stocks? They can be a nice investment in a low rate market, but where to look? Healthcare and tech stocks look like a great place. Analysts think dividends in those sectors will rise 10% and 9% respectively, handily outperforming dividend-focused sectors like utilities and REITs. Healthcare looks particularly healthy. Check out Abbvie (5.3% yield), Gilead 3.9%), Pfizer (3.9%), and Eli Lilly (2.2%).
FINSUM: Profits in healthcare have been ballooning and executives seem to be quite focused on returning money to shareholders.
Gold has been surging on the back of fears of rising tensions between the US and Iran. The metal just hit $1,600 per ounce, its highest level in almost seven years. However, what is going to drive gold once all of this fear calms down? Gold has been known to spike in times of fear, but the positive effect on its price usually fades quickly. What will really drive gold is the same thing that always does: Treasury yields and their outlook. Ever since the Crisis, the relationship between gold and Treasury yields has been pretty strong. When yields rise, gold falls.
FINSUM: We don’t see a lot of upward pressure on rates right now, which taken on its own might make one think gold has a solid path ahead of it.
There have been two huge beneficiaries of the increased tensions with Iran in recent days: oil and gold. The shiny metal is now at its highest level since 2013 at almost $1,600 per ounce. The difference between the two is that gold seems likelier to stay elevated. Goldman Sachs argues oil would actually need a physical disruption to supply in order to stay elevated, while historically gold is likely to keep rising. According to the bank, “In contrast, history shows that under most outcomes gold will probably rally to well beyond current levels”, says Goldman’s head of commodities research.
FINSUM: Gold certainly has a longer runway than oil for staying high as its rise in prices has nothing to do with a possible supply disruption, which means one doesn’t need to materialize in order for prices to keep moving higher.