Get Rich - Stay Rich - Investing for Monthly Income

Monthly Income from a Covered Call Closed-End Fund

For monthly income investors, the BlackRock Enhanced Capital and Income CEF (CII) offers an investment option for both growth and income.  CII trades at a 10% discount to its NAV.  The dividend yield is 11.47% which is inline with other CEFs in this category.  CII’s previous closing price was $12.59 and has a superior rating by Morningstar.

The fund invests in large-cap value stocks and includes a call option writing overlay (on individual holdings and the S&P 500 Index). Individual holdings are picked based on strong competitive performance, a good balance sheet, excess cash flow, low debt payments, and management with proven ability to effectively manage though various market cycles. Stocks must meet multiple valuation criteria, including low price earnings ratio, low price/book ratio, high dividend yield, and high return on equity. Analysts and managers like companies that are currently out of favor and that they believe have future growth potential.

Over the latest three-year annualized period, the fund gained more than 4%, beating the the S&P 500 Value Index, which lost 2%.  During the first year and a half using the new strategy (the second half of 2007 and 2008), the fund struggled and underperformed the peer group and the index, but performance improved markedly in 2009 as the new management team took over. Strong performance continues:  The fund is up 7% over the past year and down 1.7% for the year to date while peers are up 2.5% over the past year and down 4.6% for the year to date.

Following June’s distribution reduction, the 11% distribution rate is on par with peers. The fund has used destructive return of capital in two of its seven fiscal years: In 2008, almost half was from destructive return of capital, but in 2010, it was less than 10%. The recent 25% reduction is a positive sign, but investors should question whether an equity strategy can earn 11% in this market. If the call strategy is successful and stock picks continue to be profitable, it’s possible.    The fund offers a standard distribution reinvestment program. If the fund is trading at a premium (including brokerage commissions), then the dividend amount is invested in to newly issued shares.

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