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Alternatives to Low Yielding Bond Funds

edited December 2020 in Fund Discussions
At this time, I just don't see any good reason to hold most highly recommended and highly rated intermediate core/core plus bond funds with their low SEC dividend yield, now usually in the 1 - 2% range. An exception are multisector bond funds like PIMIX and TSIIX, for example, that may eke out total returns greater than their SEC yield.

As a retired and somewhat conservative investor, I have been looking for other low volatility options that may offer more competitive total returns in the current low interest rate environment. I have come across a promising alternative fund like ARBIX (SD = 2.94%), and also two allocation funds along the lines of the former BERIX fund, i.e., before it changed ownership, that usually had a small equity exposure of around 20%. The two funds are FIKFX (SD = 4.13%) and VASIX (SD= 4.72%).

I would appreciate any comments or suggestions for any additional fund options along these lines.

Thank you,

Fred
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Comments

  • I also use ARBIX and FIKFX. Then I cobble on some merger arb funds (HMEAX and MERFX). TMSRX seems to be a popular alt fund that has done well.

    SWAN & DRSK are also on the menu. They seem to go well together.

    Considering SVARX and CVSIX, but those are on the back burner.
  • edited December 2020
    JD_co said:


    SWAN & DRSK are also on the menu. They seem to go well together.


    Thanks, JD, for sharing.

    Never considered using options-based funds. But, after a quick review, both SWAN & DRSK look quite promising. Need to do more DD, of course.

    Thanks, again.

    Fred
  • edited December 2020
    PTIAX has 3.81% yield. YTD is +5.59 and last 10 years: +5.99, maybe call it 6% (?) The monthly dividends are always bigger than the 3 cents plus a fraction I typically get from my others: RPSIX and PRSNX.

    RPSIX +5.6% YTD and PRSNX +8.00% YTD.
    YIELD: RPSIX 2.98% and PRSNX 3.2%.
  • Take a look at Vanguard's W funds, VWIAX and VWENX. You won't get big dividend %, but they also throw some good cap gains. Works for me.
  • edited December 2020
    Thanks, Crash and Starchild, for your suggestions.

    PTIAX, another multisector bond fund, looks good and I'll add it to my watchlist to monitor its risk/reward performance. Certainly seems to belong in the company of PIMIX and TSIIX.

    I also took a look at VWIAX/VWINX, a highly rated 40/60 allocation fund. Unfortunately, according to M*, the fund is subject to "extensive interest rate sensitivity" which doesn't work for me in the current extremely low interest rate environment. The fund will face a significant head wind if, as is likely, rates will go up over the next few years.

    Hence, I am looking at another well regarded 40/60 allocation fund from Vanguard, VSCGX, that is less interest rate sensitive as an alternative to VWINX.

    Good luck,

    Fred
  • Hi Fred,
    Over the past 3 months, I’ve been slowly evolving my low volatility equity and interest sensitive bond funds and cash, to more defensive funds. I followed with interest Lynn Bolin’s many articles in MFO and SA, and just became a MFO premium member to access the screening power there. I’ve swapped into SWAN, TMSRX, GAVAX, CTFAX and GIBLX. Lynn/MFO has covered these funds, along with others. My overall asset allocation remains the same, 50/50, but my risk profile feels much better. So far, so good.
    Best of luck and happy holidays,
    Rick
  • edited December 2020
    If you're interested in multisector bond funds, you may want to consider RCTIX.
    Fact Sheet
  • I had rather large positions in ARBIX and MERFX. I never lost much money but never made much either. Over last 15 years MERFX has paid out about 10% in income and the share price is up 25% Over a fifteen year period that's not much

    There is no magic cure in this low interest rate environment. With a duration of 8 years, VWINX may really hit the wall if rates go up. If there is a substantial equity pull back, you could lose 10 to 15% in a week or so.

    I think at these valuations you are better off DCA into a target position over months if not a couple of years, unless you understand options well enough to buy puts ( which reportedly are very cheap now)
  • edited December 2020
    Thanks for sharing, Rick.

    Currently, ARBIX, TMSRX, PIMIX and TSIIX make up 65% of my portfolio that I feel fairly comfortable with going into 2021. It's the other 35% that I am struggling with. With high equity valuations I might hide out in funds like FIKFX and VASIX, or do I keep using allocation funds like JBALX and VLAIX, for example, with significantly higher equity exposure, in the hopes that the new vaccines we will soon establish herd immunity and the economy will come roaring back and stabilize the markets?

    CTFAX looked like an excellent low volatility fund until its mandate was recently changed requiring it to hold a minimum of 50% in equities. I also looked at GAVAX but it's loss of 12.8% in 2018 makes me uneasy. Do you know by any chance what happened?

    GIBLX, an excellent intermediate core-plus bond fund with a good record, used to be in my portfolio until very recently. But with a SEC yield of only 1.84% and a longish duration of 7.3, I don't see it repeating its past total return performance in the current low interest rate environment.

    Anyway, just some random thoughts.

    Wish you the best of luck and happy holidays.

    Fred
  • If you're interested in multisector bond funds, you may want to consider RCTIX.
    Fact Sheet


    Thanks for the suggestion, Observant.

    RCTIX is already on my watch list and I am currently monitoring its risk/reward performance. So far, so good.

    Thanks, again.

    Fred

  • edited December 2020
    sma3 said:
    "There is no magic cure in this low interest rate environment. With a duration of 8 years, VWINX may really hit the wall if rates go up."


    I quite agree with your opinion on VWINX and, as I said previously, another Vanguard fund, VSCGX, may be a better option at this time.

    Fred

  • IVOL might be an option for some. I'm using that as my cash alternative at the moment.
  • @rforno - What's the catch? IVOL is roughly 90% made up of another ETF SCHP.
  • @fred495: I agree with you regarding CTFAX. Another factor to consider regarding that fund is that it is a fund-of-funds, and all the funds it owns are Columbia. TRP does the same thing with some of its allocation funds, so I guess the charge of incest should be left unspoken.
  • edited December 2020
    Their actively managed options-fu on rates/duration seems to provide some nice yield compared to cash or short-term rates - esp since I think they're using vehicles that us little people don't have acess to. I've been impressed thus far.
    Mark said:

    @rforno - What's the catch? IVOL is roughly 90% made up of another ETF SCHP.

  • If you’re looking for something along the lines of the old Berwyn Income Fund, you might want to look at PMEFX, a new fund run by its former managers that has a very similar strategy. More info here: https://www.pennmutualam.com/strategies/balanced-income-strategy/penn-mutual-am-1847-income-fund
  • edited December 2020
    Thank you, MrRuffles, that's great news.

    I was always wondering what happened to former Berwyn Income Fund managers Cipollini and Saylor after they resigned in 2019. Looks like they finally found a new home at Penn Mutual. I will be following the new fund closely, it could certainly find a place in my portfolio. Hopefully, PMEFX will soon be available at Fidelity.

    Thanks, again, much appreciated.

    Fred
  • Hi Fred,
    You inquired about GAVAX, here is a link to David Snowball's review:

    Link

    FYI: here is the performance of the funds I mentioned, along with FIKFX and VASIX, during the March swoon. See this chart:

    "https://stockcharts.com/freecharts/perf.php?GAVAX,CTFAX,TMSRX,SWAN,VSCGX,VASIX,fikfx"

    CTFAX and GAVAX are tactical allocation funds, so I'm looking/hoping for the managers to help with defense.

    Re: CTFAX, I believe its strong performance during the March swoon reflects its new mandate, so that's encouraging.

    Best of luck, happy new year!
    Rick

  • Thanks for the information, Rick. Much appreciated.

    Good luck in the new year.

    Fred
  • PMEFX will definitley get some of my $$ eventually. Please contact Penn M to expedite the brokerage availability.
  • PMEFX 59 % bb-b bonds (fixed income)
    Stay safe, Derf
  • Where do you see 59% of portfolio in B and BB bonds?

    PMEFX Inception 7/31/20.
    As of 9/30/20: 25.7% equity and 74.3% bonds. Of the 74.3% bonds: 22.7% AAA, 6.1% BBB, 27.2% BB, 22.6% B, 3.9% CCC and 17.5% convertibles. Not enough time to see how the portfolio construction settles. Limit 40% equity exposure.
  • rickrmf If I'm not mistaken, the new mandate took effect in June or July 2020. During the March swoon, the fund followed the old mandate, so its stock allocation was only 10-20 %, when the decline started.
  • With regard to PMEFX , I'd like to see how it handles a 20%+ bear market before investing .
  • @shipwreckedandalone : that was Schwab from 9/30. Appears they dropped about 10% of their bonds.
    Stay Safe, Derf
  • edited December 2020
    fred495 said:

    Thanks, Crash and Starchild, for your suggestions.

    PTIAX, another multisector bond fund, looks good and I'll add it to my watchlist to monitor its risk/reward performance.
    Fred: M* link to 3-5-10 year risk/reward profile:
    https://www.morningstar.com/funds/xnas/ptiax/risk

    I'm seeing a relatively high R-squared compared to its category.

  • carew388 said:

    With regard to PMEFX , I'd like to see how it handles a 20%+ bear market before investing .

    If it’s any indication, during the 2008 bear market, the fund they formerly managed, BERIX, had a MaxDD of 13% and a return of -12.0% with a recovery time of 6+ months.

  • Sorry, Crash, but I actually never pay much attention to "r-squared". I usually focus on a fund's std. deviation, Sharpe and Sortino values.

    I put PTIAX on my watchlist because I was comfortable with its risk/reward profile. Also, M*'s 3-Yr Risk vs. Category rating is "Low", and its Return vs. Category is "Above Average".

    Fred
  • I'm assuming that @Crash means that PTIAX's R² calculated relative to Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index is substantially higher than the category's R² calculated relative to that same index.

    While 39% is certainly higher than 16%, the numbers are so low as to provide little insight. At best (i.e. assuming that the linear regressions are even meaningful), it says that 2/5 of PTIAX's gains/losses can be explained by movements in the "bond market".

    Multisector bond funds don't resemble the bond market and so comparing performance with the broad market doesn't offer much insight. M* doesn't even benchmark the category against this index. Instead it uses Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Universal Bond Index. (See the footnotes under the Risk and Volatility Measures table cited.)
    https://www.morningstar.com/articles/864498/a-more-complete-bond-index-fund

    FWIW, the index that M* finds to be the best fit to the fund is a 65/35 blend of Barclays High Grade and Barclays High Yield indexes. Which isn't all that surprising given that the fund has about 10% BB or below and another 8% unrated. That's less junk than the category average (40% BB or below and 5% unrated), which also explains its higher but still small correlation with the (investment grade) aggregate bond index.

    http://performance.morningstar.com/fund/ratings-risk.action?t=PTIAX

    Compare this with a multisector fund like TSIIX which comes close to category average allocations: 36% BB or below and 4% unrated). With more junk, its R² relative to the investment grade aggregate bond index of 15.30% is nearly the same as the category average 16%.

    http://performance.morningstar.com/fund/ratings-risk.action?t=TSIIX
  • Yes, @msf, your assumption was correct. But I learned something from your explanation, too. Thank you! :)
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