There have been many times in my long career when some things were “certain.” In 1999 and 2000 people were certain tech and internet stocks would rise with no end, as if trees grow to the sky. In recent years there were times when investors were certain interest rates would rise and not by a little. After all, Fed chiefs Bernanke and Yellen told us so.
On the other side, in the 2008-09 financial crisis there were those who were certain the financial system was about to collapse. Buy Treasurys yielding close to zero, they said. Something is better than nothing. There were similar panics (the taper tantrum) after that.
At times stock market bears said get out now while you can, or the opposite (last chance to get in). There are always people on the extremes. The problem is that extreme results seldom happen because there is no constituency for them. In most aspects of life, moderation carries the day.
So here we are. Most people expect interest rates to rise in fits and starts for years. Fed chief Powell has said as much. I can make a case for that as the economy expands and demands for credit grow, but nothing is certain. Suppose for whatever reason credit demands do not rise and interest rates stay where they are (historically very low) or edge up or down a bit. The prudent thing to do is cover both outcomes to one degree or another and for clients that is exactly what I do. Investments that do well when interest rates rise include adjustable preferreds and bank-loan funds. When rates fall or stay low fixed-rate bonds, preferreds and exchange-traded debt do well. So do utility stocks, telecoms and better-yielding issues.
Stocks do well when the cause of upward pressure on interest rates is an expanding economy, which means profits are rising as well. Stocks did very well in the 1980s because GDP was growing at a rate we can only hope for now. It didn’t matter that interest rates also rose. It was a bull market.
The prudent strategy is to have one foot in each camp. Own some vehicles that will do well if rates rise and some if they don’t, or if in fact they fall. One needn’t be 50-50. My favorite adjustable rate preferred is Goldman Sachs Series ‘D’ (GS.D). For fixed-rate preferreds, my clients own Saul Centers 6.125% Series ‘D’ (BFS.D) and Renaissance Re 5.375% Series ‘E’ (RNR.E). More on those and others in an upcoming article.