Rock-Tenn, International Paper Offer Upside Says M.D. Sass Fund Manager

The bull market is getting long in the tooth and that’s the best time for a buy-write strategy.
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The bull market is getting long in the tooth and that’s the best time for a buy-write strategy, says Ari Sass, portfolio manager for the M.D. Sass Equity Income Plus Fund. 'We are clearly in the later stages of a bull market with the S&P trading at 17-18 times earnings. At the same time you have interest rate risk due to a potential Fed action,' says Sass. 'In that type of environment, a covered call, or buy-write, strategy not only offers downside protection from increasing volatility in the market, but also income generation in a fairly rich market.' The M.D. Sass Equity Income Plus Fund is unique in that actively selects the stocks in its portfolio as opposed to simply employing a buy-write on the S&P 500 index. The fund, which is up 3.3% so far in 2015, also buys put protection on the S&P index to provide extra downside protection. Sass says the put premium offers cheap insurance nowadays with the VIX, or so-called fear index, at low levels in the 12-13 range. As for the best candidates for his strategy, Sass says he currently likes cardboard box-makers like Rock-Tenn and International Paper.