Ranking about dead last a year ago in Barron's handicapping of where to go for yield, municipal bonds climb nearly to the top for 2014. Long-term issues yield 4.5-5%, towering over the 30-year Treasury at 3.8% ... and don't forget the tax exemption. Credit worries are high, but the "real news is that the credit profile of local governments throughout the U.S. will improve as property valuations rise, local sales and income-taxes increase, and major reform of public employee pension plans accelerates," says John Loffredo, co-manager of the MacKay Shields Municipal High Yield Fund.
Topping the list are the best performers from last year: dividend stocks. Even after a big rally, plenty of blue chips yield more than the 10-year Treasury and payouts are still low, says S&P's Howard Silverblatt, who sees a double-digit rise in cash payouts this year.
Dividend ETFs: DVY, IDV, VIG, SDY, VYM, SDIV, HDV, SCHD, DWX, KBWD, PID, DES, DTN, PEY, SPHD, DIV, DHS, DLN, LVL, DTD, DGRW, DON, FDL, FVD, PFM, FGD, NOBL, DOO, DOL, SDYL, DVYL, DEW, IDOG, HGI, DGRS, DNL, DGRE, DVYA, RDIV, QDF, RDVY, QDEF, QDYN, IQDF, EMDG, IQDY, WDIV, IQDE, FIEG
Near the bottom of the list this year after a big move in 2013 are MLPs, which trade for nearly twice the valuation of utilities and telecom, based on Enterprise Value/EBITDA. Yields are tasty at 5.5%, but many MLPs barely cover their payouts - a contrast to the vast majority of dividend-paying corporations. Stick with MLPs comfortably covering their distributions like EPD and PAA.