NEW YORK ( ETF Expert) -- Here in early April 2013, an overwhelming number of folks believe one truth to be unassailable. For worse or for better, the U.S. Federal Reserve's unconventional interest rate easing has pushed dollars into riskier assets, including higher-yielding debt, equities and real estate.
Beyond crediting the Fed with a modern-day "wealth effect," however, opinions vary greatly. Some expect the Fed's electronic money creation and subsequent bond purchasing will continue for many years into the future. Others postulate that the Fed may signal a change in direction as early as June or July.
Similarly, there are those who feel that the end of ultra-loose monetary policy will mark the start of a self-sustaining economy -- one where stocks and other higher-yielding assets will continue providing ample reward for the risk incurred. Conversely, there are many who argue that the minute the Fed ceases to intervene, these types of assets will drop like boulders off the proverbial precipice.
Granted, without a reasonable return on cash to be found, institutional investors (e.g., insurance companies, hedge funds, money managers, etc.) may find themselves craving more appealing alternatives. On the other hand, big money can head for the exit doors just as quickly as it had entered. Profit-taking after months of unrestrained gains can knock the wind out of a market's sails. Even a series of less-than-glorious economic reports can put a dent in the idea that the Fed can cure all portfolio ills.For example, while it has not been widely reported, roughly three-quarters of S&P 500 corporations have issued negative guidance going into the first-quarter earnings season. They're likely to blame their "misses" on the ongoing eurozone recession and/or sequestration. Meanwhile, manufacturing growth in the U.S. continues to slow, as the Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) dipped to 51.3 from 54.3 in March. Maybe the Fed can solve everything with easy money for home and auto purchases. Still, rotating away from sexier growth assets and into less glamorous defensive equities makes more sense to me. Here are three shifts worth of making: 1. Shift From High-Beta Real Estate to Less Volatile Real Estate Investment Trusts For the better part of 2012, investors in iShares DJ Home Construction (ITB) and SPDR Homebuilders (XHB) may have seemed prescient. Year over year, one's looking at 55% and 35% gains respectively.