We often get questions about what can be done in a portfolio to protect from a falling dollar. Often people refer to gold for this solution, especially when every other advertisement on Fox News is from companies trying to sell you- guess what- gold!
Another most often heard answer is owning foreign currency, which has its own risks. Both this and the gold strategy have something in common – neither pay any type of interest or dividend.
A few years ago we looked at the falling dollar and decided that there had to be another angle to this issue. We found gold to be a difficult purchase. Historically it has not been a good investment, as it has no manufacturing purpose and pays nothing to own it. Owning foreign currency is not as transparent as one would think. Funds that trade or hold currency do not actually hold real currency but track future contracts related to global currency. This creates returns that do not exactly match the movement of the dollar because of additional unwanted variables within the contracts.
Part of the Wiser Wealth solution to a falling dollar lies in our allocation to the ETF iShares S&P/Citigroup International Treasury Bond Fund (NASDAQ:IGOV) . IGOV is an international treasury bond fund holding foreign government bonds from around the world in their local currency. With 624 bonds from 20 countries , IGOV has returned 4.35% year to date and yields 3.53% (as of 9/30/11), while the US Dollar index has rebounded to just above flat year to date. The chart below shows IGOV’s negative correlation with the US Dollar over the last 6 months.
The iShares S&P/Citigroup International Treasury Bond Fund (IGOV) has an expense ratio of 0.35%. The fund has an average duration of 6.35 years. IGOV is a passive index dollar hedge play that has a yield. The ETF tracks the S&P/Citigroup International Treasury Bond Index Ex-US. The index methodology is to track a broad diverse group of international treasury bonds with maturities greater than one year and which are market value weighted. The index is rebalanced monthly, with country weights changing annually using January-end data. There will be no country weighted more than 24.95%, and countries weighing less than 10bps are removed. The top 5 countries are as follows: Japan 23.16%; Italy 8.74%; France 7.99%; Germany 7.81%; and the Netherlands 4.88%. The fund currently has 266 million in assets.
Despite the USD recent comeback, we see any future government stimulus only weakening the currency further. IGOV can be used to help cushion the blow to a falling dollar.
Disclosure: I am long IGOV.