blog18nov2007

Hot Off the Web
Rob Carrick questions the advantages of ETFs in down markets, when active fund managers may have the advantage to move into cash and or reduce heavy weightings in overpriced stocks in “Funds more nimble than ETFs” . He identifies 20 funds that had significantly better peak (September 200)-to-peak (October 2007) returns than the iShares Canadian LargeCap 60 Index Fund. In addition to ability to go to cash, he suggests that the Nortel effect (with Nortel representing about 1/3 of the index before collapsing by 99%) may be one explanation. This is a tough sell to some for the usual reasons of the difficulty in identifying who will out-perform a priory and then executing the successful market timing move of switching to-from ETFs or funds at the right moment.
In WSJ’s “Package Deals” new (available in the U.S.) bundled products encompassing life insurance and annuities with long-term care contracts, are discussed together with scenarios when these would be advantageous. Examples are when trade-off are possible between higher benefit, if long-term care is needed, versus reduced life insurance benefits.; or an annuity policy with a long-term care rider.
WSJ’s Glenn Ruffenach in “The baby boomer’s guide to Social Security” identifies trade-offs on timing the start of (U.S.) Social Security payments. With growing longevity delaying benefits have advantages; also he identifies advantageous strategies for couples. In the same issue of the WSJ “In search of a purpose” “encore career” is differentiated from “working in retirement” by a number of attributes such as considerable duration, for pay/benefits, searches for meaning; not done to make ends meet, done between “end of one’s working life and the beginning of full retirement”. There are especially many opportunities in “education, health care and the non-profit sector”.
In “Coming soon: ETFs within ETFs” the WSJ’s Ian Salisbury presents new ETFs from Powershares which are built on combinations of other ETFs (from Powershares). Unlike life-cycle funds, which change their asset mix over time (as the holder ages), here fixed allocations are used and holders will pay an additional 0.25% expenses on top of the composing ETFs.
In “Few investments that zig when others zag” Financial Post’s David Berman discusses the difficulty of finding uncorrelated assets in this highly correlated world. Quoting Richard Bernstein, high quality (Treasury) bonds and cash are just about the only uncorrelated assets left and their returns are minimal. Some other recent uncorrelated assets were gold, local debt markets and global dividend stocks.
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