With all of the volatility of the last months, bond ETFs are taking on a new life. As an asset class, bond ETFs have surged in popularity in recent years as a much easier and cheaper way of accessing bond market liquidity. Recently, bond ETFs have seen their role morph. Whereas they have often been seen as a safe haven from periods of volatility, they are now being used as a risk management tool, says the head of iShares U.S. Wealth Advisory Product Consulting at BlackRock.
FINSUM: So many of the newer bond ETFs are designed to thrive in volatile markets, not just provide a low volatility safe haven. This means they are more of a proactive than reactive product.
If you follow Warren Buffett at all, you will know that one of his main investing philosophies is to buy companies with a wide moat, or a major defensive position in their industry which blocks competitors from grabbing market share. It seems second nature to want to invest in such stocks, however, research suggests they may not perform as well as one would think. The reason why is that wide-moat stocks are often very popular, which means they get overpriced as investors pile in. Because of this, companies that consumers love often have returns that lag lesser companies. “Great companies don’t always make great investments”, says the CIO of retirement for Morningstar Investment Management.
FINSUM: This is a really a matter of timing. At some point these popular companies see a big run up in their stock, so it is more a matter of buying them early than saying they underperform.
Jay Powell, head of the Fed, has been working on a year-long project to overhaul one of the Fed’s most important goals. That goal is full employment. The Fed only has two mandates, stable prices in the economy, and maximum employment. Yet the definition of maximum employment is now up for debate. At the core of the consideration is the idea that having a job is different than having a good job. The difference between the two means the Fed may use a different calculation for measuring employment. That potential change has huge implications, as it would likely lead to looser monetary policy both in the immediate future and further out.
FINSUM: We think there is a big difference between the quality of different jobs in the economy which needs to be accounted for by the Fed. The current way of measuring employment was designed when most jobs were permanent and full-time, but with the rise of the gig economy, measuring methods need to shift to account for the changing nature of the labor market.
The whole market is freaking out about the trade war. Between the yield curve inversion, plunging yields, and weakening economic indicators, investors are on bear market and recession watch. However, these worries are likely overdone, meaning the current market is a buying opportunity. There is little consensus that economic data is worsening and the economy is headed for a recession, but investors seemed compelled to believe this because the expansion is about to become the longest on record.
FINSUM: Investors seem to be feeling a sense of doom that has little basis in reality. There is no reason why the economy has to go south just because the expansion has reached a decade.
There has been a lot of media coverage lately about how to protect one’s portfolio from the trade war. We came across an unusually clever idea recently, however, that has nothing to do with trying to forecasting the impact of tariffs on different sectors. Here is the strategy: buy exchange stocks (meaning the stock of stock exchanges, like the Nasdaq). The argument is that panicked buying and selling alongside a trade war will boost trading volumes, which in turn boosts revenue.
FINSUM: We think this is a brilliant strategy. If volatility rises, exchange stocks will likely do well. If volatility is down, meaning less trading volume, the rest of your portfolio is likely to be doing well.