Monday, February 17, 2014

The Often Overlooked Unit Investment Trust

Most Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) are set up as unit investment trusts that are only redeemable into large "creation units" by the broker-dealers who sponsor them. Everyone else trades the shares, which seek to mimic the performance of a particular index. That's all well and good, but the UIT that intrigues me is the fixed portfolio of preferred stock or bonds that has no investment adviser and, therefore, no management fee. A portfolio of, say, 50 preferred stock issues is purchased and placed in trust overseen by the trustee, who pays out the income produced by the securities in the portfolio after trustee and administrative fees have been deducted. Your exam might refer to such a UIT as a "supervised, non-managed portfolio, typically of fixed-income securities." That's exactly what it is, and since I'm pretty sure that trading in and out of preferred stocks is both expensive and unnecessary, I see no reason to pay an investment adviser to manage/trade the portfolio.
So, what's stopping me? Interest rates. Yields are still so low at this point that I can't get excited over parting with a large chunk of change just to watch 2-3% yields dribble in. I've told myself that when I can get a 5% yield or higher, I will start buying in. As your test wants you to know, my risk is that interest rates will keep climbing after I buy in--the value of my units will drop if that happens. Then again, I would still be collecting a decent yield from preferred stock, and I can check the credit quality of the issues and let the trustee handle it from there.
A likely test question on a UIT would point out that these securities are primarily regulated under the Investment Company Act of 1940.Need Help with your Series 7?

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