Insight & action

In Search of Shelter

Making money in 2014 is proving somewhat more challenging than last year. Of the 10 industry groups which comprise the S&P 500 Index, only utilities are up -- and that's hardly an inspiring sector. Even companies raising guidance are trading lower.

Since good news is being completely ignored at the moment, we're thinking we need to find places to ride out the storm, ideally collecting dividend income; Oppenheimer & Co. strategist John Stoltzfus calls this "getting paid while we wait."

High yield bonds pay about 6 percent currently, and two ETFs are even up on the year. The team at Ned Davis Research has consistently reiterated their positive view on high yield given record low default rates, an improving economy, and a Fed which has made clear rates will stay "low for an extended period."

Master limited partnerships also provide high quarterly income, since MLPs must by definition pay out 95 percent of profits in order to maintain their pass-through status, thereby avoiding double taxation (corporate plus personal). MLPs usually include high cash flow businesses like oil pipelines, energy services, and toll roads. The two highlighted here are down about 1 percent year-to-date, which is less than the Dow Industrials at -4.8 percent, and they both yield more than 6 percent.

Finally, gold has found a foothold. After declining 28 percent in 2013, it's up about about 3 percent this year. Gold miners are enjoying a particularly impressive bounce, with the smaller miners leading, up 18 percent year-to-date.

Markets will eventually get through this "period of adjustment" brought on by Fed taper, as Barclays strategist Barry Knapp explained on our program. In the interim, we favor shifting a portion of the portfolio to income-oriented instruments -- getting paid while we wait.

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