Insight & action

Where to Find Income

The Commerce Department released moderately better data on the economy this morning -- but don't celebrate quite yet. While U.S. consumer prices ticked higher in March, today's 1.5 percent figure still falls short of the Federal Reserve's stated 2 percent target.

Small amounts of inflation signal growth and even pricing power, both positives for the economy. This is why the Fed wants to see higher inflation, and has committed to maintain "low rates for an extended period" until it perceives sufficient change.

Fixed income strategist Adrian Miller of GMP Securities reminds us nearly half of today's gain was housing related, which he argues does not speak to broad-based improvement. In other words, no change at the Fed. Investors will also notice no change on the 10-year yield today. It's holding steady at 2.66 percent.

Slow growth is not limited to the U.S. Today's economic data included a number of sub-par results globally. China, Japan and the United Kingdom all showed signs of weakness.

Low growth for now means low rates for longer. That's tough news for income-oriented investors like pension funds and endowments. So today we highlight five exchange-traded funds offering steady dividends. One is stocks only, two invest in bonds of varying grades and two others offer exposure to alternative segments (master limited partnerships and real estate investment trusts). In addition, all five are up this year, compared to the S&P 500 Index (-0.7 percent) and the NASDAQ Composite Index (-3.8 percent).

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