Yes, bonds are boring. But boring is good during turbulent markets. Bonds give you some of the most secure income in the world. Plus, their interest payments are not discretionary like stock dividends. These payments are legal obligations. Failure to make them can force a company into bankruptcy. Non-payment could also make the company's credit rating suffer, making it harder to raise capital.
But many investors may have been turned off of bonds due to the difficulties in buying them. At around $1,000 a piece, regular bonds can be cumbersome for individuals to invest in. Moreover, since these bonds don't trade on a major exchange, you may have a hard time finding out their exact trading prices, which can also vary from broker to broker.
The solution to this expensive, illiquid market: PET (Preferred Equity Traded) bonds.
PET bonds are one of the most overlooked investments in the income universe. They emerged over the past decade to make bonds easy to access for income investors. They're simply corporate bonds packaged into affordable $25 units. They have a ticker symbol, and you can buy and sell them like stock throughout the trading day. Most of them trade on the New York Stock Exchange where the prices are publicly quoted.
Nearly 90% of all PET bonds carry a safe, investment-grade rating, and over 15% rank in the top tiers of "AAA" or "AA."
A Bond by Any Other Name Is Still a Bond
PET bonds may be listed in the financial press under an acronym followed by a ticker symbol. Don't let these exotic abbreviations scare you away from a really solid asset class. They're simply brand names dreamt up by a Wall Street brokerage firm to put their stamp on a profitable sector. Two of the more common acronyms you may come across are: QUIBS and PINES.
QUIBS is short for QUarterly Interest BondS. As the name says, they pay interest in quarterly installments. QUIBS were structured by investment banker Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS).
PINES, which stands for Public Income NotES, are virtually the same product. PINES were created by brokerage Smith Barney.
High Yields -- And Secure Total Returns
The nice thing about PET bonds is that they offer you more than just high yields. They offer you secure total returns amid a rough market. As you know, price and yield move in opposite directions.
But most PET can hold their value through market turmoil. That's because investors know they can count on their payouts -- and in most cases a return of principal -- no matter what happens in the broader market. As a result, their high yields should translate into solid total returns year after year.
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