Chasing yield is easy until the party ends

I have successfully liquidated my debentures in Harvest Energy (series D and E) for 101.5 and 102.0, respectively. Since they are trading above the 101 that will have to be offered after the takeover, it is unlikely that investors will tender the debt. I am happy to be rid of the bonds so my capital can find some more productive areas. My opportunity cost of this transaction is giving up about a 6% yield, but there are equivalent risk instruments that the money can be parked in the interim.

I have another issue (Bellatrix Exploration, formerly True Energy Trust) that has seen its equity rise about 400% over the past four months and its bonds have correspondingly traded near par. It is very close to my liquidation point and there will be a high probability it will be sold very soon.

As such, my portfolio is starting to look cash rich. While cash is good, it is also earning a return that is less than flattering (mainly zero) and while I can shift the funds into a short term savings account for 1.2% (or 2% if I shopped around) I am always looking for a better place to put my money – something that will give a yield.

In my tax sheltered accounts, I am looking for investments that will generate income. Outside the tax sheltered accounts, I am looking for investments that can generate capital gains (taxed at half the rate) or eligible dividends (taxed significantly less depending on what income bracket you are in).

Most of the income trusts have been bidded up to yields that are not representative of the risks embedded within the company – for example, a trust that is always on my watchlist (but I never get around to purchasing) is A&W – currently yielding about 8.01%. This is not adequate compensation for a company that is distributing more cash than its distributable cash allotment. It is possible that A&W could trade higher (and yield lower) but this is essentially the equivalent of gambling and could just as easily go to 8.5% ($14.82/unit) as it could to 7.5% ($16.80/unit). I do not want to get into coin flipping competitions with the market.

Since my hurdle rate is above 8%, I am forced to lower my standards if I am to seek a home for my cash. This means either accepting higher risk, or accepting a lower rate of return.

Right now if I accepted a lower rate of return, I estimate I could generate about 10% a year with debentures, but this is still a relatively low rate of return in consideration of the risk taken.

As such, I must broaden my search to more obscure securities and companies. This will also require some research and time. It will also require appropriate market conditions when people are less confident.

Fortunately, time is on my side – while the cash is sitting there, earning nearly nothing, it will at least be there when I need it. The temptation to quickly deploy cash is one of the most destructive psychological behaviours one has while investing.