Bonds: Total Market
The ETF sell-off is rampant as a response to the wild and sudden market volatility, but its time to get rid of your fixed income funds? Some experts are saying there is a breakdown in the traditional 60-40 portfolio, but outflows aren’t present yet at the rate in bond funds. This is despite funds like AGG being down over 10% YTD. One possible reason for this is that investors are more worried about macro factors than most other factors. Over a third of advisors are worried about inflation, rates, and geopolitics whereas only one in ten are as concerned with volatility. This is could cause a shifting of flows into more stable macro flavored products like bond funds.
Finsum: We’ve said it once we can say it again, bond fund holders aren’t eyeballing returns like equity ETFs they are holding for security.
AllianceBernstein is moving forward with the development of two new ETF products and they are meeting the demands of the market. There has been a sharp uptick in active management particularly in the bond ETF segment in the post-pandemic environment. The predominant view is that managers are better suited at picking winners with macro-flare proving so effective. The two portfolios they are launching are coming in an ultra-short income offering which will have a combination of government and investment grade corporate debt. As well as a tax-aware short-duration ETF. There has also been a shift towards shorter duration bond funds as a response to a rise in interest rate risk.
Finsum: With the Fed stomping on the gas pedal, if inflation comes under control quickly longer duration debt could be under-priced.
State Street launched a new fund LQIG which started trading on May 12, an effort to give investors exposure to liquid bonds with high traceability. The market is rife with turmoil, and investors are looking to different fixed-income products to provide an inflation-beating yield and relatively liquid assets. The fund seeks exposure to 400 investment-grade corporate bonds denominated in dollars. These differ from most fixed-income funds which are designed to give broader market exposure that doesn’t prioritize traceability. The high traceability comes with lower bid-ask spreads as well as more transparency into their holding's real-time valuations.
Finsum: Investment-grade corporate debt is looking relatively more attractive with market volatility at such highs.
The Fed had its largest hike in two decades, and the ECB has gone ultra-dovish. This has sent a huge influx of Euro area investors into U.S.-short-durations bond ETFs. Funds like the iShares 3-7yr UCITS ETF had over $600 million in inflows last week. Short-duration corporate debt was also favored by euro area investors. Overall the bond market had seen an exodus in the previous weeks but this confluence of factors has been enough to entice investors. While the Fed has made up its mind they have contributed to inflation, bank heads in Europe are mixed which will leave policy to be accommodative for the near term.
Finsum: The Fed could be over-reacting and Europe could be under-reacting to inflation, but if Europe doesn’t tighten they will find their bond market in a similar position to the US a couple of weeks ago.
Markets are in turmoil which has investors looking for more secure options, but American bonds are a risky option with rising yields (falling prices), which means active international is in a good position. Over the last year, 82% of active bonds have outperformed, and while that doesn’t hold up in the long run the unique conditions put them in a good position. International bonds can offer less interest rate risk, already better yields, and comparable credit profiles. The added advantage of international active funds is investors can make hedges with currency trading which can allow investors to hedge or leverage for more potential gains.
Finsum: The Fed will continue to put pressure on both bonds and equities in the U.S., and investors need a backup plan.
Years of QE and ultra-low interest rates have caused income investors to migrate from fixed-income to dividend stocks, but things are shifting. The rising rates from the Fed have caused retail and institutional investors to really consider taxable fixed income as an income alternative. Investors are really interested in 4.5-5% investment-grade corporate debt with longer maturity. Investors believe we are reaching the bottom of the bond prices and short-term rates could be a little over 3% next year. Other advisors and institutional investors are skeptical that longer-term bonds like the ten-year treasury can prove to be appetizing in the next decade.
Finsum: Things are precarious in the bond market still but medium-range corporate debt is delivering an attractive yield currently.