With the income from bonds withering away, investors are piling into dividend-paying stocks.

Even Bill Gross, the influential bond guru who oversees $1 trillion in fixed-income investments at Pimco, has been urging investors to move out of low-yielding bonds and savings accounts into utility and telecom stocks with high dividends.

Several funds specializing in stocks with stable or rising income, including T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth, Vanguard Dividend Growth, Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF and SPDR S&P Dividend ETF, have each taken in at least $100 million in new money this year even as assets have been leaching out of other stock funds.

Think twice before you join the stampede.

True, the Crane 100 index of taxable money-market funds yields an average of 0.07% and the Barclays Capital U.S. Aggregate bond index just 3.4%. Meanwhile, many stocks are paying dividends of 4% and up.

But income isn’t interchangeable; a 4% yield on bonds isn’t the same thing as a 4% yield on stocks. Bonds are risky too, especially at today’s high prices. Stocks, on the other hand, can fall hard even when they pay high dividends.

Consider the Standard & Poor’s ‘dividend aristocrats,’ the companies in the S&P 500 index that have raised their dividends every year for at least 25 years in a row. In 2008, these 52 blue chips yielded an average of 3.9% — more than twice the return on Treasury bills.

But the dividend aristocrats fell 21.6% last year. Yes, that beat the 37% loss on the S&P 500 as a whole. And if you had invested $10,000, you would have earned a solid $388 in dividend income. Yet you still finished the year with $2,155 less than you started with.

Utility stocks offered even higher yields last year — and bigger losses, too. Despite yields of 4% and up, utility indexes lost 28% to 32% in 2008.

The whole point of holding bonds and cash is to provide income and safety to temper the risks elsewhere in your portfolio, like the risks of owning stocks. No matter how fat a dividend they offer, utilities and other high-yielding stocks are still stocks. Preferred stocks, convertible bonds and junk bonds behave like stocks.

Piling this stuff on top of the equities you already own makes a portfolio riskier. ‘Just think of all those widows who thought they could rely on steady dividends from Wachovia and other banks,’ warns Larry Swedroe, director of research at Buckingham Asset Management in St. Louis.

I called Mr. Gross to clarify his position. ‘The last 12 to 18 months have proved there’s an appropriate price for liquidity,’ he said, ‘and these days that comes in the form of a near-zero percent yield’ on money funds. ‘For the typical small investor, that represents an insurance policy or a way station for required expenditures in the near-term future.’

So, isn’t the purpose of a money-market fund to keep a portion of your money safe, rather than to provide income to live on? ‘It’s hard to disagree with that,’ Mr. Gross said. Instead of draining their money-market accounts, he would rather see investors replacing some of their growth stocks with high-dividend-paying stocks.

Don’t forget that even today’s 2% to 4% bond yields aren’t as paltry as they look, because inflation remains close to zero. The 6% interest income you remember earning a decade ago came at a time when inflation ran about 3%. You might protest that inflation, as officially measured, is understated today — but it is probably no more inaccurate now than it used to be. In real terms, you are only slightly worse off now than you were then.

So a two-year bank CD or a Treasury inflation-protected security yielding around 2%, and short-term investment-grade bond funds at 2% plus, aren’t the end of the world.

Mel Lindauer, co-author of ‘The Bogleheads’ Guide to Retirement Planning,’ is fond of I-bonds, inflation-adjusted savings bonds from the Treasury that are yielding 3.36%. You can’t cash out for at least 12 months, and you forfeit the last three months of interest if you redeem in less than five years. But I-bonds are free of state and local tax. Information is at treasurydirect.gov.

In any case, don’t kid yourself into thinking stock dividends and bond interest are interchangeable. They aren’t.

过于追求股票高回报可能得不偿失

随着债券收益率日渐萎靡,眼下投资者纷纷涌向高派息股票。

即使颇有影响力的债券专家、管理着太平洋投资管理公司(Pimco) 1万亿美元固定收益投资的格罗斯(Even Bill Gross)也一直在力劝投资者从低收益率的债券和储蓄帐户抽身,转投公用事业和电信等高派息类股。

几家专门投资收益稳定或不断上升股票的基金,今年来都至少新吸收了1亿美元投资,而其他股票基金管理的资产则一直在缩水。这些扩大投资规模的基金包括T. Rowe Price Dividend Growth、Vanguard Dividend Growth、Vanguard Dividend Appreciation ETF和SPDR S&P Dividend ETF。

然而在匆忙加入这支高派息股抢购大军之前最好三思。

的确,Crane 100应征税货币市场基金的平均收益率只有0.07%,巴克莱资本美国总体债券指数的回报率也只有3.4%。与此同时,很多股票派发的股息在4%以上。

但两者的收益并不能这样互换对比。同样是4%的收益率,对于债券和股票来说大有不同。债券也有风险,特别是在如今价格高企的情况下。而谈到股票,在支付高额股息的同时同样有可能大幅下挫。

就拿那些标普的派息大户来说,这些标普500指数的成份股公司至少连续25年逐年提高派息额度。2008年,这52只蓝筹股的平均收益率为3.9%,是短期美国国债收益率的两倍多。

但这些高派息股的股价去年下跌了21.6%。当然这与标普500指数整体37%的跌幅相比仍然算不错的表现。而且如果你投资1万美元,还可以获得388美元的股息收入,不过一年算下来你依然会亏损2,155美元。

公用事业类股去年的收益率更高,但跌的也更惨。尽管收益率在4%以上,公用事业指数2008年下跌了28%-32%。

持有债券和现金的整体宗旨是提供收益和安全性,以对冲投资组合中股票等其他资产的风险。不管提供的股息有多丰厚,公用事业和其他高收益股票也依然是股票。优先股,可转债和垃圾债券的表现也跟股票大体相仿。

在现有持股的基础上再加入大量高派息股会令你的投资组合风险加大。圣路易斯资产管理公司Buckingham Asset Management的研究主管史维卓(Larry Swedroe)表示,想想那些曾指望从Wachovia和其他银行获得稳定派息的寡妇们就知道结果会是怎样。

笔者给格罗斯打电话,请他阐明自己的立场。他表示,过去12-18个月已经证明,流动资金存在一个适当的价格,这在近期表现为货币市场基金收益率接近于零;对那些典型的小投资者来说,购买货币市场基金意味着买了一种保险,或是将近期内就要用的钱暂时存放起来。

这是否意味着投资货币市场基金的目的在于保证你的一部分资金是安全的,而不是提供赖以生存的回报?格罗斯说,的确如此;与其大举抽出货币市场帐户内的资金,投资者不如将部分成长型股票替换为高派息股票。

别忘了如今即使是2%-4%的债券收益率也并不像看起来那么微不足道,因为通货膨胀依然接近于零。十年前的利息是有6%,但那时的通货膨胀也有3%左右。你或许会说,官方统计的通货膨胀率目前存在低估,但当前通货膨胀率数据的准确性可能并不比以往低。实际上,现在比那时的情况只是略有恶化。

因此收益率在2%的两年期银行定存单或者通货膨胀保值型国债,以及收益率在2%以上的短期投资级债券基金都属于不错的选择。

相对于收益率为3.36%的美国国债,《退休计划达人指南》的作者之一林道尔(Mel Lindauer)对通货膨胀指数储蓄债券更为青睐。这种债券至少12个月不能变现,如果持有时间不到五年就进行赎回,还会丧失后三个月的利息。但是这种债券可以免征州和地方税。

无论如何也别骗自己说,股票派息和债券利息是可以互相替代的。它们不能。

Jason Zweig

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