I got a great call last night from an 80-year-old woman whose situation pretty much crystalizes what's going on right now in this market. She has CDs rolling over now that pay 5%. She knows that the current CDs won't give her more than 1% at best.
So, she wanted my blessing to buy Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) and I said yes, because I liked the yield, the balance sheet, the new management and the breakup value.
Now, at no other point in history that I have seen would you ever suggest an 80-year-old woman use JNJ as a replacement for a CD. Never. Sure, on an after-tax basis the 3.5% yield that JNJ gives you is so much better than the current CD. And JNJ is perhaps among the top ten trusted brands in the world, even after the production issues have dogged it so badly. It doesn't have the earnings power you would like to see, but it is pretty darned clear that if you broke the company up it would be worth substantially in excess of its current value.
But still, this question represents the desperate shape of investors everywhere who seek a fixed income replacement. Johnson & Johnson only has to go down $2.50 to make it so the CD alternative is better for this woman, and that could happen in a blink of a high-frequency trader's eye.
Yet, somehow I think it is reckless to keep her in CDs.
It's funny, in the exact same show I interviewed Edward Aldag, chairman, president and CEO of Medical Properties Trust (MPW), a real estate investment trust that owns hospital buildings and leases them to hospitals.
The trust yields 7.2% and it has enough rental income to cover all of that yield and maybe a little more.
That would normally serve as a terrific fixed income alternative. But I couldn't bring myself to suggest it because if I did I would fear that something could go wrong with MPW and it would be on me. But if something went wrong with JNJ, it would be on them!
Either way, I am spelling out the exercise because when people say that there is a bubble in higher yield, they should remember this woman's call. She needs the income. She can't get it from CDs.
Why not go for JNJ? Not only that, but there's real upside.
Why not go for Medical Properties Trust? The stock should only be yielding about 5% to get in synch with the group.
Either's better than the alternative. It's as simple as that.