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Subject:  Trading the ETF for Bank Loans [BKLN] Date:  1/19/2013  5:45 PM
Author:  globalist2013 Number:  34712 of 35909

If one were interested in investing/trading bond funds, the single ETF for ‘bank loans’ is a good place to begin building a set of entry/exit rules.

As you can see from a chart, Friday's closing price is mostly flat when compared to its inception. But if entries had been done off any of the lows, some cap-gains could have been captured. If you pull the price history, you’ll also see that BKLN pays roughly a dime a month in dividends. So, despite the fact that price has gone almost nowhere since inception, owners of the fund made decent money. So, you’ve got choices. You can invest/trade in a price insensitive manner for ordinary income, or in a very price sensitive manner for cap gains profits (with any divs received being a bonus), or in a manner that attempts to steer a middle course between capturing as much of the dividends as possible without taking too much of a beating from loss of principal. Said another way, you’ve got three choices:

(1) You can buy BKLN --and, by extension, any bond fund -- on the basis of a time-and-price insensitive asset-allocation scheme in hopes of obtaining a total average return that at least matches prior total average returns. This is the approach advocated by Modern Portfolio Theorists and their camp followers. When markets are normal, decent money can be made using this scheme. But its assumptions make it a fragile choice. (Explaining that is a post for another time.)

(2) You can think like a short-term trader and focus solely on price action, buying BKLN --and, by extension, any bond fund-- at its short-term lows and selling at its short-term highs. This can be a robust choice. You capture cap-gains profits when they are available, and you sidestep price declines, thus preventing capital-losses. Meanwhile, while you own the fund, you collect the dividends. Also, you could go short on declines. But then you’d be responsible for the dividend. So going short bond funds (or stocks that pay dividends) has to be done with care.

(3) Lastly, you could think and act like a “traderly investor” and buy and sell BKLN --and, by extension, any bond fund-- in a leisurely, disciplined manner according to a set of rules you’ve created for yourself that attempts to balance the money to be made from dividends against the impact of losses that come from things like rising interest-rates. In other word, though you might get into a fund on the basis of asset-allocation considerations, you’re not going to lay down on the train tracks and fall asleep. At a point that you set in advance of buying the fund, you’ll cut your losses and get out. To do this, you will set a hard stop --however wide-- and you will honor it. That’s the “traderly” part of this investing choice. When markets decline, you don’t respond with moral outrage that “I’m an investor” and hope that prices will come back. You regard ‘prices’ as a valid signal, and you respond appropriately, so you can preserve capital.

There are lots of places on the Web where charts for bond funds can be created. But offers a good enough palette of tools, and its charts are linkable. So let’s do our work there. Here’s a default chart of BKLN.