Forget the trade war noise. Here's the only thing you need to know: if you'd bulked up your stock holdings on any of the dips we've seen in the last four years, you'd be a lot richer today, notes closed-end fund specialist Michael Foster, editor of CEF Insider.
The reason for the market's "one step back, two steps ahead" pattern is simple: despite the interest rate- and trade-driven terror, corporate profits and sales are rising (as are workers' wages), and unemployment is low.
In other words, the US economy is solid — and it's stayed solid through every short-term crisis of the last few years. So now we have another pullback that's given us another chance to amplify our upside.
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But what to buy? You can easily get into the market with an index fund like the S&P 500 ETF (SPY), but there's a problem: we want to have a nice stash of dividend cash to drop into stocks on the next pullback, and with SPY, your payouts are tiny, with just a 1.9% dividend yield.
This is where closed-end funds (CEFs) come in. With an average yield of 7.4%, CEFs are much bigger income producers than the index, and three CEFs are particularly appealing right now, with overhyped fears making them unusually cheap.
Let me explain. Because CEFs' market prices can deviate from the value of the holdings in their portfolios (called the portfolio's net asset value, or NAV), CEFs can trade at wide discounts to their NAV— even if the funds have a long history of strong performance. That's exactly what we're seeing in the three funds I'm going to show you now.
Let's start with the Boulder Growth & Income Fund (BIF), whose 3.9% yield is more than double that of the average S&P 500 stock, even though it's actually on the small side for a CEF. Plus, BIF pays out special dividends every once in a while and has been aggressively increasing its regular quarterly payout, too.
General American Investors (GAM) also goes after bargain stocks, plus the fund is a bargain itself at a 14.5% discount to NAV. GAM is what I call a "stealth yielder": while its normal dividend (paid annually) yields about 1%, the fund gives you the bulk of your cash through a big special dividend in December.
These special payouts are a big deal: they gave GAM an annualized yield of more than 9% last year, and a similar yield is likely in November, when the fund will announce its end-of-year payout.
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That gives it a mix of high-performing tech stocks and stable cash generators from other sectors. This balanced approach is how GAM has been returned so much cash to shareholders over the years.
The Nuveen Tax-Advantaged Dividend Growth Fund (JTD) takes a similar approach as BIF and GAM, but its "regular" dividend yields an outsized 7.7%, so you don't have to wait for dividend hikes or special payouts to get your big yield here.
Plus, JTD trades at a 2.3% discount that, while smaller than those of GAM and BIF, is still far too big, given what the fund does.
JTD's diverse portfolio ranges from Honeywell International (HON) to SAP (SAP), UnitedHealth Group (UNH) and AT&T (T). It also includes some tech, such as Microsoft. The fund's global approach helps it find bargain-priced companies with entrenched client bases and stable revenues.
That's why JTD has been crushing the market for a decade. And here's the best part: only a few people know. If you look at the market-price movement for JTD, it seems pretty ho-hum. But this is without dividends. Add in JTD's big payouts and the chart looks much better.
Not only has JTD soared over the last decade, it has also beaten the index, with a huge chunk of its return in cash, to boot. That means this fund shouldn't trade at a discount at all — but the fact that it does means it's certainly worth your attention now.
These funds are all useful buys during short-term downturns if you want to try to play the changes in their discounts.
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