Bonds: Total Market
Nope; no precious four baggers here. Instead, ESG recently took something of a hit as the United Nations convened a climate alliance for insurers, according to reuters.com. A minimum of three additional departures – including the chair of the group – took place. What had them heading for the exits? Opposition from U.S. Republicans pols.
As of the time of this report, on May 25, that meant at least seven members of the Net-Zero Insurance Alliance had bid the group adieu, with five of the eight founding signatories included. NZIA was founded in 2021.
Over the past year, in terms of reaching decisions evolving around investments, negativity stemming from the contemplation of EGS factors has dominated the landscape, according to weforum.org.
The invasion of Ukraine, inflation and, in some parts of the world, a spike in populism, have aroused criticism surrounding ESG.
The caveat: integral to abetting the swing to a greener, more sustainable future hinges on investing that’s truly sustainable and, consequently, shouldn’t be shucked aside.
Even so, the period of negative scrutiny in so much as arriving at investment decisions generated by ESG factors, has been unprecedented.
In an article for Benzinga, Piero Cingari discussed the bear market in office REIT stocks as the vast majority are now trading at their all-time lows. It’s not entirely surprising given that workers are not returning to the office, following the pandemic, despite the best efforts of many employers.
As a result, many companies are giving up office space and/or choosing to move to a hybrid model. Of course, this has spillover effects on other areas such as the businesses that sell products and services to these workers.
In the first week of May, office occupancy in the 10 largest US cities was at half the levels that were seen prior to the pandemic. Many analysts had predicted that office occupancy would gradually ‘normalize’ just like so many other parts of the economy have done so. Yet, this isn’t the case and occupancy hasn’t risen over the last 6 months which is an indication that the changes may be permanent.
Adding to the sectors’ woes is higher rates leading to higher borrowing costs, heavy levels of short interest, and rising crime rates in many urban areas.
Finsum: Office REITs have been crushed amid high rates and corporations reducing office space with occupancy at 50% of pre-pandemic levels.
In an article for MarketWatch, Mike Murphy covered a recent report that state and federal regulators are examining unusual trading patterns behind the recent volatility in bank stocks. Notably, the entire banking sector and specifically regional banks, have been subject to heightened volatility and heavy short-selling in recent months following the failures of banks like Signature Bank, First Republic, and Silicon Valley Bank.
In recent weeks, there have been big declines and large amounts of put buying in the stocks of regional banks like PacWest, Western Alliance, and Zions. The core challenge for these banks is that they made long-term loans at much lower rates, yet they have to increase short-term deposit rates or risk depositors leaving for higher rates elsewhere. And the risk of this deposit flight increases if concerns about a bank’s financial health increases.
Both the White House and the SEC noted the short-selling pressure on banks possibly contributing to the volatility. In a statement, SEC Chair Gary Gensler said, “In times of increased volatility and uncertainty, the SEC is particularly focused on identifying and prosecuting any form of misconduct that might threaten investors, capital formation or the markets more broadly.”
Finsum: With increasing volatility in the banking sector, regulators and public officials are examining short-selling and put buying as factors that may be adding to volatility.
Um, fixed income investors seemingly were more than glad to host the going away party, according to JP Morgan.com.
That’s especially in the aftermath of one of the worse years on records for bonds. The culprit? Yep; the Fed, and its hyper active barrage of rate hikes. And, yes again, the last of it should spell stability this year to the bond market. That said, investor should bear in mind:
How far will the Fed go before concluding its rate hiking campaign?
How might credit perform in a year where both economic and profit growth are set to slow?
How will impaired liquidity impact price action?
Now, on one hand, of course, with volatility comes risk. But it also can be the land of opportunity, according to lazardassetmanagement.com. Consequently, investors shouldn’t duck and dodge fixed income like a bill collector but embrace the possible upside by going eye to eye and confronting volatility.
“In this unusual environment, we believe investors may want to move out of a passive mindset and consider investments beyond ‘plain vanilla’ bonds. By being creative, being active, and diversifying globally, investors can find fixed income solutions that may set up portfolios for the longer term with attractive return potential.”
Volatility? Um, okay. What of it?
After all, yeah, sure, while it generates risk, it also can create opportunity, according to lazardassetmanagement.com. Meaning, rather than trying to circumvent it, fixed income investors should embrace it. Why exactly, you ponder? It’s because they could reap rewards from, like a scene straight out of the Wild West, looking it in the eye. No blinking, either.
In this atypical environment, the firm believes investors might want to abandon a passive mindset and chew over investments that leave “plain vanilla” bonds in the dust. Investors can come across fixed income solutions that have the potential to set up portfolios for the longer run by being creative and active. And don’t forget, mind you, diversifying globally.
Earlier in the year, etftrends.com reported that, potentially, fixed income classes could dispense better total return performance in 2023. That’s in the aftermath of a year riddled in negative returns that not only reset valuations – but to levels that seem more attractive. It’s especially so among investors with a more prolonged timeline.
American Century Investments recently launched a new actively managed fixed-income ETF targeting floating-rate debt securities. The American Century Multisector Floating Income ETF (FUSI) trades on the NYSE Arca and has an expense ratio of 0.27%. FUSI seeks to complement an investor's core bond holdings with current income, broad diversification, and the potential to mitigate the impact of rising rates. The ETF invests across various floating rate security segments including collateralized loan obligations (CLOs), commercial mortgages, residential mortgages, corporate credit, and other similarly structured investments. Plus, up to 35% of the portfolio may be allocated to high-yield securities including bank loans and other lower-rated floating-rate debt. Managers Charles Tan, Jason Greenblath, and Peter Van Gelderen build the ETF’s portfolio using a sector rotation approach that combines macroeconomic inputs, technical analysis of the relative value among various sectors, and fundamental research on individual securities. As part of the launch, Sandra Testani, Vice President of ETF Product and Strategy, stated, “FUSI compliments our current ETF income.” She also noted that “We believe a diversified floating rate mandate has the potential to mitigate downside risk and increase income, and we are excited to offer this on our ETF platform.”
Finsum:American Century recently launched the actively managed American Century Multisector Floating Income ETF (FUSI), which invests across various floating rate security segments such as CLOs, commercial mortgages, residential mortgages, and corporate credit.