Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), and especially MLP funds, have enjoyed a recent surge in popularity. And for good reason.
If you are looking for an investment vehicle with current high yield, favorable tax treatment, and a connection to the growing U.S. energy industry, look no further than MLPs. Even better, today’s expanding selection of MLP funds, from mutual funds to ETFs and ETNs, offer investors great accessibility and flexibility of choice to find just the right addition to an investment portfolio.
Like REITs, MLPs are “pass through” investment vehicles that don’t pay tax at the entity level and are required to pay out most of their current income to investors. But instead of investing in real estate, MLPs invest primarily in energy (oil and gas) assets.
However, it is important to note that the pass through feature is not provided through a mutual fund, ETF, or ETN investment. So why invest in MLP funds? Because investors can get a combination of income and growth without having to file those annoying end-of-year K-1s to the IRS, as is generally the case with individual MLPs.
Here are 3 of the best MLP funds you can buy now.
Best MLP Funds: Yorkville High Income MLP ETF (YMLP)
If, like many investors, you’re attracted to MLP funds for their high income, a top choice is Yorkville High Income MLP (YMLP).
The 12-month yield for YMLP is 9.6%. However, in exchange for the extraordinarily high yield, you may need to accept relatively low returns, at least in the short term. For example, year-to-date, YMLP is down -13% in price, whereas average MLP funds are up nearly 12%.
This performance differential may be due to YMLP’s outsized exposure to small-cap holdings, which are currently out of favor and represent approximately 85% of the portfolio, whereas the average MLP fund is comprised primarily of large-cap MLPs, such as pipeline giants, Enterprise Products Partners LP (EPD) and Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP).
Also, expenses are high at 4.65% — or $465 for every $10,000 invested. But MLP funds are known for high expenses. For example, one of the largest, most popular MLP funds, Alerian MLP (AMLP) has an expense ratio of 8.56%.
In summary, if your first priority is high current income and you are willing to wait for the long-term growth potential, YMLP may be your choice.
Best MLP Funds: iPath S&P MLP ETN (IMLP)
If you are looking for a balance of income and growth, combined with solid index-tracking and low expenses, the iPath S&P MLP ETN (IMLP), is among the best in the universe of MLP funds.
ETNs are organized as unsecured debt issued by a bank with the promise to mirror a particular index, after fees. A benefit to this structure is much better overall index tracking but the downside is that distributions are treated as taxable income, like with bonds.
The iPath S&P MLP ETN seeks to replicate, net of expenses, the volume-weighted average price level of the S&P MLP Index and is designed to pay a quarterly coupon.
IMLP’s yield is solid 4.2% and the year-to-date price gain of 11.6% is actually ahead of the broader market. Meanwhile, the expense ratio is an attractive 0.8%.
Best MLP Funds: Oppenheimer SteelPath MLP Alpha Plus (MLPAX)
For investors who prefer mutual funds or those who want an actively-managed MLP fund with a solid performance track record, Oppenheimer SteelPath Alpha Plus (MLPAX) is an outstanding choice.
There are approximately 120 MLP funds, including all share classes, available in the total universe of MLPs today. And although many of the newer MLP funds are actively managed, only about one-third of all MLP funds have been around more than 3 years.
MLPAX is now more than 4 years old. Looking back at performance history, the 3-year annualized return of 14% easily places it ahead of two-thirds of MLP funds for the same period.
There is a load of 5.75% on MLPAX but the load can be waived on qualifying purchases, such as larger-volume buys and defined contribution plans, or through an investment advisor.
Otherwise, MLPAX an accessible MLP fund with an initial purchase of $1,000 and a reasonable expense ratio of 1.5%.
As of this writing, Kent Thune did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities. Under no circumstances does this information represent a recommendation to buy or sell securities. It is important that investors understand that the tax reporting for master limited partnerships and MLP funds can be significantly more complex than was described here, and that they should read the fund prospectus and consult their tax advisor to fully understand the implications of owning MLPs.