This High-Yield Fund (Yields 7.1%) is the Hottest Retail Play of 2021

One of the great things about closed-end funds (CEFs) is that there’s one out there we can use to tap just about any trend—and turn it into a nice 7.1%+ dividend payout.

Take the surge in retail we saw last month. Despite the pandemic, Americans are hitting the stores again (with many doing so online):

Retail Sales Surge

In January, retail sales jumped 5.3%, far ahead of economists’ expectations of 1.2% gains. This was helped by a 0.7% sales drop in December, but it’s undoubtedly the result of the latest round of stimulus checks.

Retail ETF Soars, But Its Dividend Leaves Much to Be Desired

That’s great news for retailers because it proves that consumers are spending their COVID aid money instead of hoarding it. So it should come as no surprise that the mainstream crowd has bid up the SPDR S&P Retail ETF (XRT) in response:

Investors Get Some Retail Therapy

It’s also no surprise that online retailers like Overstock.com (OSTK) have swelled to make up a quarter of XRT’s portfolio.

Brick-and-Mortar Surrenders to the Web

Source: State Street Corp.

Of course, this shift toward retail is also great for advertising companies, such as XRT’s second-largest component, online-advertising firm Magnite (MGNI), which is used by many retailers. And, unsurprisingly, since we’re talking about online advertising, a lot of retailers’ ad spend will end up with Alphabet (GOOG), Facebook (FB) and Amazon.com (AMZN).

Trouble is, those last three tech giants aren’t held by XRT, so you won’t get exposure to them by purchasing the fund. And worse, XRT yields just 0.9%, a pathetic payout that’s below even the paltry 1.5% the average S&P 500 stock pays.

This CEF Crushes XRT, Yields 7.1%

We can do better with a CEF that gives you exposure to all of the above names, pays a dividend that’s more than seven times bigger and has beaten XRT over the long run, too.

That would be the Liberty All-Star Growth Fund (ASG). Not only is this CEF a great way to play the retail bonanza, it has also been a more reliable investment in the retail sector on its own, easily beating XRT in the long run. It’s also topped the broader market.

ASG Crushes Its Passive Rival and the S&P 500

In addition to returning 269% in the last five years, ASG has delivered healthy dividend hikes and paid a very generous extra dividend at the end of 2020. (Note that ASG aims to pay out 8% of its portfolio value as dividends annually.)

ASG’s Dividend Ticks Higher

I’ve admired ASG for a long time, and at the end of 2019, I flagged it for its domestic focus, which was a particularly strong asset at a time when investors saw China as the wave of the future. That hypothesis turned out to be wrong, even if China beat COVID-19 before the US.

ASG Beats China and the S&P 500

The above chart shows just how important it is to choose the right fund. While the Chinese stock market index, shown in blue by the performance of the iShares MSCI China ETF (MCHI), handily beat the S&P 500 since I published that 2019 article, we see that ASG (in orange above) more than doubled the S&P 500’s return and easily beat the Chinese index, too.

That’s because ASG’s selective focus on high-growth stocks set it up to navigate 2020’s volatility and benefit from consumption shifts around the world due to the pandemic.

Those gains are likely to hold, by the way, and taking the China option now looks riskier than ever. If we go back as long as all three of these funds have existed, we see that ASG has been the top performer—and, crucially, Chinese shares have performed only half as well as the S&P 500.

China Is a Long-Term Underperformer

Finally, let’s not forget that ASG’s 7.1% yield is nearly five times that of the S&P 500, and if history is anything to go by, ASG’s dividend is set to keep growing.

— Michael Foster

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The only snag with ASG is that it trades at a premium to net asset value (NAV), or the value of its underlying portfolio. That will likely cap its upside in the near term, so let’s put it on our watch list for now and make a move when that discount disappears.

Meantime, I’ve got 5 other CEFs for you that are ripe for buying right now. Unlike ASG, all 5 trade at big discounts, and they pay higher dividends, too: an outsized 8% average yield between them!

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Source: Contrarian Outlook