Posts Tagged ‘Debt Plan’
Thursday, November 10th, 2011
This Week’s Feature: BMO Equal Weight Utilities ETF ( Ticker: ZUT )
Globally equity markets staged an incredible recovery from their October lows. However, Europe’s ongoing troubles ensure that heightened anxiety will remain. Even more reason to keep a careful eye on risk inside your portfolio.
Major equity indices for the United States, Europe and Emerging Markets rallied by 14% to 20% over the last five weeks. The S&P TSX 60 rose 12.5%. Commodities rallied too, with crude oil and copper up about 19%.
Euro-zone relief drove the rally, just as Euro-zone despair drove the drop. Until the Euro-zone begins to resolve its debt issues, every move it makes will agitate markets. When the Greeks decided to put their debt plan before a referendum last Tuesday, European equity markets fell 5%.
In this volatile environment, investors must be more vigilant in managing portfolio risk. One risk often overlooked is counterparty risk. As the exchange-traded market has developed, more, er…esoteric, ETFs have arisen, some of them with counterparty risk.
First, I should stress that most ETFs invest directly in stocks or bonds. These plain vanilla ETFs pose no counterparty risk. Other ETFs use futures contracts: no counterparty risk here either, but they do have other issues such as leverage that I have discussed before.
Then, there are ETFs that use “over-the-counter” (OTC) derivatives contracts. These are the ones that come with counterparty risk. These ETFs do not invest directly. Instead, they pay a fee to a counterparty, say a bank, and in exchange, the bank pays the ETF the return on some index like the S&P 500. All goes well until the day the bank is unable to pay the return.
How can you tell whether your ETFs have counterparty risk? You must read the prospectus. In a past role as a manager of OTC derivatives for a Bay Street fund manager, I was responsible for controlling counterparty risk. Are most investors ready or willing to do that? Unlikely.
In Europe, institutional investors are selling their OTC ETFs in droves and shifting to plain vanilla ones. France’s second largest bank, Société Générale, has seen outflows of Euro 4.4 billion this year from the OTC ETFs managed by its Lyxor division. There is nothing inherently wrong with the ETFs but investors are worried about SocGen’s exposure to Greek debt. SocGen’s stock price has fallen nearly 60% this year.
In recent notes, I discussed sector diversification and lower-risk, higher-dividend sectors like REITs. Another is the utilities sector.
When we play Monopoly, my sons tend to pass on Water Works and Electric Company in favor of Pacific Ave or Boardwalk. Like them, most Canadians pass on utilities for their portfolios.
That’s largely because the S&P TSX Composite passes on utilities. Three sectors dominate the Composite – financials, energy and materials – with nearly 80% of the weight. Utilities account for just 2%, even though their benefits would seem to mesh well with what most investors want.
Utilities are less volatile than energy, materials and even the Index as a whole. They pay better dividends than the Index and every other sector barring telecoms. Best of all, they are not so closely tied to the events in Europe.
There are a couple of Canadian utilities ETFs available: the iShares S&P TSX Capped Utilities (XUT/TSX) and the BMO Equal Weight Utilities (ZUT/TSX). Of the two, BMO ZUT is larger with about $95 million in assets.
iShares XUT is market cap weighted and holds 11 companies, with Fortis, TransAlta, Emera, Canadian Utilities and Atco making up about 70%. XUT pays a dividend of about 2.9%.
BMO ZUT is rebalanced twice a year to equal weights across 15 companies. It pays a dividend of about 5.3%. ZUT also holds one oil pipeline company, Pembina: not strictly a utility but the same idea.
The high yield will attract longer-term investors. In the near term, keep in mind that valuations are rich. The average price-to-earnings ratio for the companies inside ZUT is 23.4 times, with a price-to-book of about 1.93 times. For the Composite, the values are 15.2 times and 1.84 times.
Some of the premium is justified by the benefits. But a price fall in the near term is possible and that would be a good time to enter.
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Tags: Bonds, Canadian, Careful Eye, Commodities, Crude Oil, Debt Issues, Debt Plan, Emerging Markets, Equal Weight, Euro Zone, European Equity, Futures Contracts, Greeks, Last Tuesday, Lows, Otc Derivatives, Outlook, Plain Vanilla, Play Monopoly, Portfolio Risk, Prospectus, TSX 60, Volatile Environment, Zut
Posted in Bonds, Brazil, Canadian Market, Commodities, ETFs, Markets, Oil and Gas, Outlook | Comments Off
Friday, July 29th, 2011
by Michael ‘Mish’ Shedlock, Global Economic Trends Analysis
Thursday morning Bloomberg reported House Majority Leader Cantor Predicts House Republicans Will Pass Debt Plan Today
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor predicted Republicans would pass a debt-limit increase plan today as some freshman lawmakers pledged support for the measure in the face of unified Democratic opposition in the Senate.
Kiss that prediction of Cantor goodbye. Thursday evening Republicans put off vote on debt limit because Boehner clearly lacks the votes.
An intensive endgame at hand, Republican leaders abruptly postponed a vote Thursday night on legislation to avert a threatened government default and slice federal spending by nearly $1 trillion.
“The votes obviously were not there,” conceded Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., after Speaker John Boehner and the leadership had spent hours trying to corral the support of rebellious conservatives.
The decision created fresh turmoil as divided government struggled to head off an unprecedented default that would leave the Treasury without the funds needed to pay all its bills. Administration officials say Tuesday is the deadline for Congress to act.
Senate Democrats stood by to scuttle the bill — if it ever got them — as a way of forcing Republicans to accept changes sought by Obama.
Based on public statements by lawmakers themselves, it appeared that five of some two dozen holdouts were from South Carolina. The state is also represented by Sen. Jim DeMint, who has solid ties to tea party groups and is a strong critic of compromising on the debt issue.
Others said conservatives wanted additional steps taken to try to ensure that a constitutional balanced-budget amendment would be sent to the states for ratification. As drafted, the legislation merely requires both houses of Congress to vote on the issue.
Even before the House voted, Reid served notice he would stage a vote to kill the legislation almost instantly.
“No Democrat will vote for a short-term Band-Aid that would put our economy at risk and put the nation back in this untenable situation a few short months from now,” he said.
Boehner was humiliated and justifiably so. He had nothing to gain and everything to lose by attempting to ram-rod a gaseous bill through the House that was guaranteed dead-on-arrival in the Senate.
Majority leader Cantor made matters worse by predicting passage.
Stock Futures Tank in Unusual Correlation with Treasuries
Futures on the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index fell after the U.S. House of Representatives postponed a vote to increase the nation’s debt limit, boosting concern that the lawmakers are far from an agreement to avoid default.
S&P 500 futures expiring in September lost 0.8 percent to 1,286.9 at 12:28 p.m. in Tokyo. The decline suggests the U.S. equity benchmark may extend its 3.3 percent slump from the past four days when markets open in New York.
Stocks and Treasuries are moving in tandem twice as often as they normally do, a sign investors are growing convinced the U.S. will lose its AAA credit rating and that an impasse among lawmakers may spur losses in both markets. The S&P 500 has risen or fallen together with 10-year Treasury notes 80 percent of the time in the last 10 days, compared with the average since 2000 of 41 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Would be Blessing
I am sticking to what I said in Not Raising the Debt Ceiling Would be Blessing; Debt Limit Analysis; Interactive Map, You Decide What Not To Pay
All things considered, especially since Boehner’s credibility is gone in his latest gaseous proposal, the best thing for Congress to do would be to NOT hike the debt ceiling and work out a credible plan over the next month.
Is Mish a “closet Liberal-humanist?”
In response to that post I received a humorous email from “BC” who wrote…
Mish, your choices reveal your empathy! Are you a closet Liberal-humanist?!
Your choices favor the elder working class, the working-class and poor ill, unemployed, poor and “food challenged”, and imperial legionaries and auxiliaries against the corporate-statists!!!
Are you one of those maladjusted working-class types who just doesn’t “get it”?!
Wink , wink ;-) ;-).
To see my choices as to what I would cut and to make your own choices about what to do if the debt ceiling is not raised, click on the above link for an interactive map.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock
Copyright © Michael ‘Mish’ Shedlock, Global Economic Trends Analysis
Tags: Balanced Budget Amendment, Bloomberg, David Dreier, Debt Issue, Debt Limit, Debt Plan, Democratic Opposition, Eric Cantor, Federal Spending, Global Economic Trends, Holdouts, Jim Demint, John Boehner, Michael Mish, Mish Shedlock, Party Groups, Republican Leaders, Senate Democrats, Senate Vote, Stock Futures
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