Gordon Pape’s mailbag: Seeking resource funds, the future of bond markets, capitalizing on commodities and other investing dilemmas

This post was originally published on this site

It’s time for another look into the e-mail bag. Here are some of the questions you’ve been asking.

Resource funds

Q – I own a resource mutual fund: NBI Resource Fund (NBC 844). I have had it a long time. It was originally an Altamira Fund. The MER is about 2 per cent. I was hoping that you can recommend an equivalent ETF with a lower MER. – Ian B.

A – You may want to look at the BMO Equal Weight Global Base Metals Hedged to CAD Index ETF (ZMT-T). It invests in a portfolio of 29 mining companies from around the world, mainly the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Top holdings include Capstone Mining Corp., Copper Mountain Mining Corp., Alcoa Corp., Arconic Corp., and Turquoise Hill Resources Ltd.. Other recognizable names in the top 10 are First Quantum Minerals Ltd., HudBay Minerals Inc., Rio Tinto Ltd. and Freeport-McMoRan Inc.

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This is a very volatile fund, with huge swings up and down. Right now, it’s riding the wave of rising commodity prices with a one-year gain to the end of April of 104.8 per cent.

This should be considered an opportunistic fund. Get in when the cycle is right and sell when commodity prices start to fall. This is not a buy-and-hold ETF; the 10-year average annual compound rate of return is in the red at -6.1 per cent.

The fund was launched in 2000 and has net assets of $90 million. The management expense ratio is 0.61 per cent. – G.P.

TFSA withdrawal

Q – In 2020, I drew out $20,000 from a TFSA account I have. Can I place $20,000 in 2021 in another TFSA with a different institution without penalty? Many thanks for your reply. – Vic

A – Yes. A TFSA withdrawal can be recontributed to any plan you have without penalty as long as it is not in the same calendar year. – G.P.

The future of bond funds

Q – I am trying to understand the medium to longer term potential for additional losses in a longer maturity bond fund (XCB-T) in a potential rising interest rate environment. I have already taken a $1 per unit hit so far and would like to know if more losses are in store as we (potentially) move into an increasing interest rate period over the longer term. Should I crystalize losses now to avoid more in the future? Thank you so much! – Betty M.

A – XCB is the trading symbol for the iShares Canadian Corporate Bond Index ETF. It invests in a portfolio of corporate bonds, of which 14.9 per cent are long-term issues, with a maturity of 20+ years. Another 12.2 per cent have maturities between 10 and 20 years.

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Long-term bonds are the most vulnerable in a rising interest rate environment, so it should come as no surprise that this fund is down 3.77 per cent year-to-date (as of May 20). The Bank of Canada appears to be more concerned about inflation and there is a growing expectation it may raise its key rate later this year. That would imply more losses for funds like XCB.

If you want to reduce your bond fund risk, switch to a short-term fund like the iShares Core Canadian Short Term Bond Index ETF (XSB-T). It is also down for the year, but only by 0.46 per cent. – G.P.

Taking profits

Q – I’m not a speculative investor. The stocks I have are things that I thought had value to them and will still have value even when prices go down. But I’m wondering when or if I should cash out some stocks that has gone way up in value and put it in a bank account in anticipation of the eventual correction? Would this be prudent, or do you think the market is going to keep rising? – Susan D.

A – No market in history has ever just kept rising. There is always a correction at some point. That’s why it’s a good idea to take some gains at times. As the saying goes: “No one ever went broke taking a profit.” – G.P.


Q – It seems that commodities should benefit most as we come out of the COVID economy. Do you have any recommendations for a commodities EFT? – Frank S.

A – I can’t find any broadly-based commodities ETFs based in Canada but there are at least 20 available on U.S. exchanges. One example is the iShares S&P GSCI Commodity-Indexed Trust (GSG-A), which was up 21.46 per cent year-to-date as of May 20. It invests in a portfolio of commodity futures contracts covering everything from agriculture to precious metals.

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But beware. This is high-risk territory. The fund shows a 10-year average annual loss of about 9 per cent to April 30 and the iShares website warns that the units “are speculative and involve a high degree of risk”. It’s also expensive; the management fee is 0.75 per cent.

In terms of total assets, the largest diversified commodities fund is the Invesco Optimum Yield Diversified Commodity Strategy No K-1 ETF (PDBC-Q), with US$5.4 billion under management. It too invests in futures contracts, ranging from aluminum to zinc, with a lot of energy-related commodities in the mix.

It’s a newer fund than the iShares entry, having been launched in November 2014. Like iShares, it has performed well in 2021 with a year-to-date gain of 22.2 per cent but the record since inception shows a loss of 2.66 per cent annually. The expense ratio is 0.68 per cent.

I can’t recommend either of these funds, or any of the others I looked at because of the high risk and volatility. But if you’re willing to roll the dice on the belief that commodities will continue to prosper, these are two options to consider. – G.P.

Bond market crash

Q – What would a bond market collapse mean for us seniors? – Michael H., Kingston

A – It would hurt but not as much as a stock market crash. And it all depends on the type of bonds or fixed income funds you hold. Short-term bonds would be much less affected than long-term issues.

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The worst bond market plunge in recent memory was in 1980-81 when interest rates skyrocketed. The prices on long-term bonds dropped by about 21 per cent. Shorter term issues were hit less hard. Compare that to the dot.com crash of 2000-2002 when the S&P 500 fell 49 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite lost 78 per cent. – G.P.

If you have a money question you’d like me to answer, send it to gpape@rogers.com and write Globe Question on the subject line. I can’t guarantee a personal response but I’ll answer as many questions as possible in this space.

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