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Race to Safety: Best High-Yielders

Sherman hopes to deliver steady annual returns of 2.5% to 4.0%. In the past year, the fund returned 3.7%. RiverPark has proved resilient in downturns, suffering only minor losses during months when most competitors sank deeply into the red. When fears about the debt-ceiling standoff sank risky assets in the third-quarter of 2011, high-yield bonds lost 6.7%, and RiverPark lost 0.07%.

Sherman likes securities where the chances of default are extremely unlikely. Many of his favorite holdings are redeemed bonds. In a typical deal, a company calls its bonds, indicating that investors must turn in their securities and receive the principal back in a month. Sherman likes to own the securities during the last 30 days. To avoid trouble, he only participates in deals where companies have plenty of cash on hand to make payments.

Thornburg Strategic Income can range widely, buying bonds of different maturities. Recently portfolio manager Jason Brady has been emphasizing short-term high-yield bonds. Many of his holdings have maturities of three to five years and carry ratings of BB, one step below investment grade. The bonds yield around 5%.

While Brady can buy bonds from around the globe, he is particularly keen on small U.S. issuers that get most of their sales in North America. "These companies tend to be less directly affected by the mess in Europe," Brady says.

He figures that his short bonds will provide some protection against rising rates. If you buy an eight-year bond, you have to worry that rates will rise before the bond matures. That could push down the price.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.
Stan Luxenberg is a freelance writer specializing in mutual funds and investing. He was executive editor of Individual Investor magazine.
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