(Bloomberg) -- The news that Mohamed El-Erian has his portfolio largely in cash has many investors wondering if they should follow suit. But what may make sense for a mega- millionaire’s portfolio isn’t necessarily a good move for people with much more modest portfolios.
Putting aside the fact that El-Erian is timing the market, not everyone can afford to move into cash if it means giving up an income stream. But if average investors are tempted to move some money out of the market, actively managed “enhanced” money- market exchange-traded funds may be a good option. These ETFs offer a way to earn some income and ward off any bite from inflation without taking on much risk.
These ETFs live in the space between money-market funds and short-term bond funds. They generally hold all investment-grade bonds from a variety of issuers with weighted average maturities of around a year or less.
The largest actively managed ETF of the bunch is the Pimco Enhanced Short Maturity Active Exchange-Traded Fund (MINT). It has 70% of its assets in corporate bonds and 16%in mortgage bonds; the rest is in U.S. Treasuries and municipal bonds. Half of its holdings are outside the U.S., in bonds from South Korea, the United Kingdom and Switzerland.
That mix of holdings adds up to a yield of 0.80%, and the ETF returned 0.60% in the past year, after fees. That’s not a lot, but it’s considerable for something that holds investment-grade debt maturing in less than a year. MINT charges 0.35% in annual fees.
Blackrock’s answer to MINT is the iShares Short Maturity Bond ETF (NEAR). It focuses almost entirely on U.S. government debt, but picks up yield by holding some bonds with maturities between one and three years. That combination produces a yield of 0.84%and a one-year return of 0.74% after fees. NEAR has $626 million in assets and an annual fee of 0.25%.
Further out on the risk spectrum is Guggenheim Enhanced Short Duration ETF (GSY). GSY has a 1.4% yield and a one- year return of 0.93%, after fees. It manages to earn that by adding 15% in high-yield debt to a portfolio of mostly investment-grade debt corporate and government bonds that mature in less than a year. It charges investors 0.27% of assets under management.