The Quest for Yield: The Roles of Dividend and Interest Income - Dec. 2011
The Quest for YieldThe Roles of Dividend and Interest IncomeBy Baird Private Wealth ManagementSummaryInvestment income has always been an important part of the total return forinvestments: Total Return = Price Change + Investment Income. Incomecan come in various forms, including the dividends associated with stocksand the interest associated with bonds. For sake of consistency, we will referto investment income as yield. Yield is simply the income received stated asa percentage of the security price. Traditionally, investors have sought priceappreciation from stocks and income from bond investments, though thesedelineations are starting to blur.Yield has become increasingly important to investors. Following theextreme market volatility over the past few years, many investors haveallocated away from stocks and other risk assets, either to positionthemselves more defensively in the face of uncertainty or to correct anover-allocation to risky assets. However, while investors are taking onless risk, it appears they have not ratcheted down their return objectives,increasing the need for yield. Additionally, most would agree that theoutlook for the stock market over the decade to come is more muted thanthe recent past. Whatever the driver, it is clear that yield is top-of-mindfor many investors.As investors search for new and often less-traditional sources of income,we remind our clients to put their decisions into context by answeringthree important questions. What is the yield or income that is required ona regular basis? What is the total return necessary to achieve my objectives?What risks and volatility am I willing to tolerate to meet the yield and returnobjectives? Investing involves a great deal of trade-offs, many of which wewill discuss later in this paper.
Key Considerations in the Chart 1 illustrates how the yields Quest for Yield available on traditional income- There are two key considerations oriented investments now stand at to keep in mind when evaluating or near historic lows. The bellwether different yield instruments: 1) how 10-year U.S. Treasury Bond, which the current market environment has averaged a 5.2% yield over the impacts the level of yield that can past 20 years, today stands at a yield be expected, and 2) the trade-offs under 3.2%. Riskier high-yield bonds, necessary to earn higher yields. which have historically averaged a yield of over 10%, today offer less Market Environment. The challenge than 7%. facing yield-seeking investors today is that the rates they have grown Investors commonly assess yield accustomed to in the past are no based on expectations they have longer attainable using the same formed from past experience. investment vehicles. As a result of However, investors must recognize monetary policy actions taken by that the current environment is the Federal Reserve, coupled with different from what they have a period of weak economic growth experienced in the past, and that their and low inflation, the yields available yield expectations may need to be on different asset classes have been adjusted accordingly. Achieving the compressed across the board. yields investors have obtained in the past might require utilizing different asset classes, which will likely entail increased risks, as discussed in the CHART 1: remainder of this paper. 20-Year Historical Yield Range and Current Yield Risk/Return Trade-Off. As investors for Common Asset Classes pursue yield opportunities, it is paramount to factor in the risk/Yield Range Over the Past 20 Years 25% return trade-offs associated with 20% various investments. Whether the search for increased yield is driven 15% by a desire to offset lower expected price appreciation or by unrealistic 10% expectations, investors must be aware that higher-yielding investments 5% are often characterized by higher 0% volatility and risk of loss. Though U.S. Treasury Municipal Investment-grade High-yield Large-cap investors may be hesitant to accept Bonds Bonds Corporate Corporate Value Stocks Bonds Bonds lower returns, we caution not to chase higher-yield opportunities without 20-Year Average Yield Current Yield full consideration of the risk/return Source: Morningstar. For the past 20 years ending April 2011. trade-offs, as they may be taking on Refer to the disclosures section for category and index definitions. more risk than they are aware. -2-
Chart 2 details the relationship between paying stocks, as well as less traditional yield, risk and total return. Traditional vehicles such as preferred stocks, real bonds (government, corporate, and estate investment trusts (REITs) and high-yield) have historically provided master limited partnerships (MLPs). average to above-average yields, lower Each of these vehicles has a unique volatility and moderate total return. Less structure and a unique risk/return traditional yield options (REITs, MLPs, trade-off, described below. As such, preferreds) generally have above-average investors can benefit from having a yields and total return potential, but diversified portfolio of yield-focused they also have higher volatility and are investments across several of these susceptible to periods of pronounced categories. negative performance. Bonds. Bonds are among the most common way that investors can addCHART 2: yield to a portfolio. This yield comes in the form of income that bonds are required to pay on a periodic basis. REITs Generally, these income payments constitute a large percentage of an MLPS investor’s total return from bonds Dividend-paying because price appreciation is not a main Stocks driver. The stability of income payments Preferred makes bonds less volatile than other Expected Yield Stocks yield-oriented options that have higher High-yield potential for price appreciation. Bonds It is important to note that all bonds are Corporate Bonds not created equal. A bond offering higher yields is a sign that investors Treasury/ Government Bonds expect to be compensated for taking on additional risk. That risk may stem from concerns about the financial health of the issuer or from the structure of the Expected Volatility bond itself. For example, bonds with longer maturities are more susceptible toFor illustrative purposes only. Chart not drawn to scale. changes in interest rates and have greater uncertainty that all future interest payments can be made. Thus, these Yield Opportunities bonds will often have a higher yield. There are several investment vehicles The bond market is very diverse and that offer the potential for income offers bonds with many different types instead of, or in addition to, the of characteristics. Common classes of potential for price appreciation. These bonds include government bonds, include more traditional investment corporate bonds and high-yield (or junk) vehicles such as bonds and dividend- bonds, among others. -3-
Dividend-paying Stocks. Companies moderately positive, like the 1970s and have choices on how to best utilize 2000s, dividends provide a valuable earnings: paying down debt, reinvesting source of return. in the company, buying back shares Hybrids: Preferred Stocks and and returning earnings to shareholders Convertible Bonds. Preferred stocks and through dividend payments are all convertible bonds are hybrid securities available options. More mature that have characteristics of both bonds companies that produce cash earnings and stocks. Similar to a bond, a in excess of growth needs often choose preferred stock is issued with a fixed to pay cash dividends. An attractive value, and payments are made based on feature of investing in dividend-paying a percentage of that value. Preferred stocks is that investors are able to share shareholders have priority claim over in a portion of the earnings and are stockholders on a company’s earnings. not reliant solely on price appreciation In this sense, a preferred stock’s income for returns. stream is more dependable than a Historically, dividends have made a dividend payment. Although the yield meaningful contribution to the total premium for preferred stocks over return of the stock market, at least in the Treasury bonds has fallen from the peak, United States. Chart 3 breaks down the the asset class still provides an above- S&P 500 return by decade into price average yield relative to Treasuries. appreciation and dividend income. Since On the downside, preferred shareholders 1970, dividend income has provided give up voting rights and generally have approximately one-third of the total less of an opportunity for price stock return. Note that dividend income appreciation. Additionally, issuing can only be positive. In periods where preferred stock is a less common form stock market performance is negative to of financing, and not all companies willCHART 3: have that option.S&P 500 Return by Decade Convertible bonds are unique in that they can be converted to a fixed amount of equity. Whether or not a bond will 2.9% be converted is at the discretion of the 5.0% issuer. Issuers are most likely to force a conversion if interest rates decline significantly; note that forced 3.5% 15.3% conversions are generally detrimental 12.6% 4.3% to the holders of the security. Given 6.8% the conversion potential, these bonds 2.4% 1.8% present greater upside potential than -2.7% most bonds, which can be important 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 1970–2011 for those seeking higher total return. Dividend Income Price AppreciationSource: Standard & Poor’s; Morningstar Direct; Baird analysis. -4-
However, in order to gain this upside considerations also exist. Thesepotential, convertible bonds typically securities have stock-like volatilityoffer a lower yield than traditional and are often concentrated in narrowbonds, albeit generally still higher than industry segments that may be subjectdividend-paying stocks. to periodic shocks. Also, any income derived is subject to ordinary tax rates.REITs and MLPs. What makes REITs Due to these complexities, weand MLPs attractive to income- recommend consulting your Financialseeking investors is the legal structure Advisor before making an investmentof these securities. REITs and MLPs in these areas.are required to pay out 90% of theirtaxable income to investors. As such, Tax Considerationsabove-average yields can be earned.Additionally, both can add As always, the level of income earneddiversification benefits to a portfolio, after taxes is the most relevant figureas they are often less correlated with to most clients. There are too manythe stock market. nuances to the tax code to list here, so we recommend evaluating the meritsREITs provide investors with access to of each option with your tax advisor.a pool of real estate assets. These poolsmay be specialized (commercial Conclusionproperty, apartments, health carefacilities, etc.) or diversified. MLPs are Yield has historically accounted for acommonly associated with the natural meaningful portion of total return,gas and oil industries, though other especially in lower-return environments.non-energy industries are slowly As such, adding different instrumentsbeginning to adopt the MLP structure. to access yield opportunities mayThe goal is to assemble a portfolio of enhance a portfolio. The differences inassets and revenue sources that provide yield between investments are a resulta steady income stream that can be of the risks that are associated with anpaid to investors. investment. Balancing the risk and return trade-offs is an important stepAlong with the unique benefits of in constructing a suitable portfolio.REITs and MLPs, some unique -5-