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New Ways to Guard Against Rising Inflation

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Plenty of financial advisers are worried about inflation. High oil prices are hurting consumers, the advisers say, and heavy spending by the Federal Reserve could trigger inflation in coming years.

To protect against rising prices, the advisers suggest a traditional approach -- holding assets such as real estate investment trusts, gold and Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities. That strategy has often worked in the past, but the favored assets have all surged in recent years and now prices look rich.

Consider REITs. During the past three years, real estate funds returned 31.3% annually, ranking as the top-performing category tracked by Morningstar. As real estate shares climbed, yields fell. Now the average REIT yields 4.3%, near the record low of 3.8%, which occurred during the bull market of 2007.

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TIPS have also been top performers in recent years. Inflation-protected funds returned 9.1% annually during the past three years, outdoing the Barclays Capital Aggregate benchmark by 2 percentage points.

Now 20-year TIPS offer a puny real yield of 0.29%. The real yield on 10-year TIPS is negative, suggesting that the bonds will likely lag inflation.

Gold has surged in the past decade, climbing from $271 an ounce in 2011 to $1,653 now. If the price falls back to average levels, investors would suffer a big loss.

Should you stay away from the traditional inflation hedges? No, says Christopher Brightman, head of investment management for Research Affiliates, the money manager that oversees PIMCO All Asset (PASAX).

Brightman says that investors should prepare for an era of more inflation by holding TIPS and commodities. But because the traditional assets are so expensive, investors should diversify their inflation portfolios more broadly than they have done in the past.

"If you just hold TIPS and commodities, you may have inflation protection, but you will not have much income," he says.

For additional income and inflation protection, he suggests holding floating-rate securities and high-yield bonds. Floating-rate funds currently yield 4.4%, while high-yield funds yield 6.7%.
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