Displaying items by tag: ETFs
Financial advisors have begun to embrace the concept of buffered ETFs. These specialty funds track equity indices, capping the potential upside, which pays for downside protection (the buffer) if the index experiences a decline.
While this concept has practical portfolio applications, these funds have another unique feature advisors should know about: they mature (and reset).
A buffered ETF has a stated cap and buffer that stays in place for a specific period, in many cases one year. This means the cap and buffer reset at the end of the period (at maturity). It also means that investors buying the ETF any time after the first day of the period should be aware of the remaining cap and buffer for that ETF for the rest of the period they bought within.
Here’s an example: let’s say a fund that caps its return for the year at 10% has already experienced a 5% decrease since the start of the period. An investor purchasing the fund at that point has a 15% cap for the remaining period – this is a good thing. The opposite is also true. Had the fund already experienced an 8% gain in the period, the buyer would only have the potential to gain 2% for the remainder of the period.
Finsum: Buffered ETFs have a unique feature that every financial advisor should know about: they have a maturity date when their upside cap and downside buffer resets.
JPMorgan believes that when it comes to fixed income, active outperforms passive. The bank believes that the benchmark, the Bloomberg US Aggregate Index (AGG), is fundamentally flawed due to an antiquated design. It doesn’t provide sufficient diversification as it only captures just over half of the bond market. This is in contrast to equities, where passive indexes reflect a much larger share of the total market.
This is because the benchmark was created in the 1980s where fixed income was dominated by Treasuries, agency mortgage-backed securities, and investment-grade corporate bonds. Now, there are many more types of fixed income securities that are not represented in the AGG. This also means more opportunities for active fixed income managers to outperform.
Another fundamental flaw of the AGG is that borrowers with the most debt have the most weight. This means that passive fixed income investors have the most exposure to the companies with the most debt. In contrast, active managers can weigh their portfolios by factors that are more meaningful and relevant to long-term outperformance.
JPMorgan’s active funds differ from the benchmark. Instead of short-duration Treasuries, it allocates more to short-duration, high-quality asset-backed securities as these have outperformed in 12 of the last 13 years. The bank also eschews securities that the benchmark is forced to own such as low-coupon MBS. In terms of corporate bonds, JPMorgan’s active funds prioritize quality. This is in contrast to AGG as 42% of its corporate bond holdings are rated BBB.
Finsum: JPMorgan makes the case for why investors should choose active fixed income. It identifies a couple of fundamental flaws in the construction of the Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index.
The stronger than expected jobs report and inflation data have punctured the narrative that the Fed was going to imminently embark on a series of rate cuts. As a result, volatility has spiked in fixed income as the market has dialed back expectations for the number of hikes in 2024.
Investors can still take advantage of the attractive yields in bonds while managing volatility with the American Century Short Duration Strategic Income ETF (SDSI) and the Avantis Short-Term Fixed Income ETF (AVSF). Both offer higher yields than money markets while also being less exposed to interest rate risk which has led to steeper losses in longer-duration bonds YTD.
SDSI is an active fund with over 200 holdings and an expense ratio of 0.33%. Its current 30-day yield is 5.2%. The ETF’s primary focus is generating income by investing in short-duration debt in multiple segments such as notes, government securities, asset-backed securities, mortgage-backed securities, and corporate bonds.
AVSF is even more diversified with more than 300 holdings and has a lower expense ratio at 0.15%. It has a 4.7% 30-day yield. AVSF invests in short-duration, investment-grade debt from US and non-US issuers. The fund’s aim is to invest in bonds that offer the highest expected returns by analyzing a bond’s income and capital appreciation potential.
Finsum: Recent developments have led to a material increase in fixed income volatility. Investors can shield themselves from this volatility while still taking advantage of attractive yields with short-duration bond ETFs.
Buffered ETFs are a relatively new type of fund that offers a unique risk-management approach. These funds track an underlying index to replicate its performance while providing a "buffer" against significant losses. However, this protection comes at a cost, as the fund's upside is capped at a predetermined level.
As investor interest in buffered ETFs has grown, fund providers have diversified their offerings by tracking various indices and offering a range of buffer and cap levels. Several applications for these funds have also emerged, such as the ability to put cash to use that might otherwise be held out of the market.
Investors in or nearing retirement are particularly susceptible to market volatility, often resorting to holding cash to protect against short-term market fluctuations. While providing protection, this strategy also prevents them from participating in potential market growth.
Buffered ETFs bridge this gap, allowing investors to enjoy market gains up to the defined cap while safeguarding against substantial losses. With this level of protection built into the fund, investors may have more confidence to transition a portion of their portfolio out of cash and back into the market.
Finsum: Investors in or near retirement who fear market downside now have a place to invest that cash they have been holding on the sidelines: buffered ETFS.
A major development in 2023 was the boom in active fixed income ETFs as measured by inflows and launches of new ETFs. Some reasons for interest in the category include opportunities for outperformance, lower volatility, and diversification. Ford O’Neil, fixed income portfolio manager at Fidelity Investments, sees structural reasons for the asset class’s recent success and believes it will continue.
According to O’Neil, there is more potential for outperformance in active fixed income vs equities, because indices only cover about half of the total bond market. In contrast, equity indices encompass a much larger share of the entire stock market. This means that the market will be less efficient, resulting in more undervalued securities.
Active managers are also able to better navigate the current landscape, where there is considerable uncertainty about the economy and monetary policy given more latitude when it comes to security selection. He notes that active fixed income ETFs have delivered strong outperformance vs passive fixed income ETFs over the last 8 years.
He stresses that identifying these opportunities is dependent on proper fundamental research and quantitative analysis followed by effective implementation. O’Neil is the co-manager of several active fixed income ETFs including the Fidelity Total Bond ETF (FBND) or the Fidelity High Yield Factor ETF (FDHY).