The UBS ETRACS Monthly Pay 2x Leveraged Mortgage REIT ETN Series B (MRRL) has been incredibly popular with high yield investors over its 5-year history. Throughout its lifetime, it often yielded 20% or more, giving it one of the richest dividend distributions in the entire marketplace. The fact that it paid out distributions monthly made it even more enticing for those seeking to generate monthly income from their portfolios.
But that yield came with a lot of risk and now investors are about to lose nearly their entire investment in MRRL.
The coronavirus crisis has slowed the global economy to a virtual halt. Depending on how long the outbreak lasts and how long many workers are forced to stay at home without a paycheck, get laid off or lose their jobs altogether, it could be real tough sledding for mortgage REITs to be able to generate interest income. With banks and even central banks talking about loan forgiveness and allowing homeowners to defer their mortgage payments until the coronavirus passes, the outlook for mortgage REITs looks increasingly bleak.
The Dow Jones U.S. Mortgage REIT Index has been diving ever since the initial coronavirus threat became real and it's been accelerating ever since. Since its February 20th peak, the index has fallen 60%.
As you can imagine, the damage was catastrophic for leveraged ETNs linked to the performance of mortgage REITs. MRRL and the UBS ETRACS Monthly Pay 2x Leveraged Mortgage REIT ETN Series A (MORL), its sister note, have both seen their share prices drop more than 98% and are now being forced to liquidate.
I won't get into the specifics of why or how ETNs get liquidated, but suffice it to say that most have built-in provisions that require them to close down if they experience extreme losses. That's exactly what's happening with MRRL and MORL.
Note: It's worth mentioning that MORL has been on the chopping block for a few months. It was getting ready to have its assets moved over to MRRL, but last week's activity accelerated the process.
These two ETNs aren't the only ones to close up shop.
A half dozen ETRACS leveraged ETNs in total have been wrapped up in addition to another group of ProShares leveraged products.
The current bear market should act as a reminder that high yields usually come with a lot of risk and it takes just one black swan event to quickly evaporate your entire investment's value.
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