Bonds: Total Market

(New York)

One of the ways that investors or advisors might think to diversify their risk is to invest in a number of different managers. The reality is, however, that many of those managers, especially within an asset class, will all have similar looking portfolios, which means you may be much less diversified than you think. The obvious analogue is index tracking funds. There would be no point in buying multiple ETFs from different providers that all track the same index. Yet that is what investors are doing in some markets. This concept is particularly relevant for the riskier end of the credit markets right now, where the market seems to be poised for the same kind of correlated fall as happened during the Crisis. In CLOs for instance, many of the largest loans are held by a majority of the major managers.


FINSUM: This seems like a smart and timely warning. Correlation can doom even the best diversification efforts, especially when it is credit driven.

(New York)

Retail investors have often had trouble accessing the corporate bond markets. Bond are traded in $1,000 increments and usually move in multi-million Dollar transactions, putting the asset out of the reach of most (new corporate bond ETFs aside). However, there is an easier way to directly own bonds—so-called baby bonds, or bonds sold on stock exchanges like the NYSE in $25 increments. The total market size for the bonds is around $20 bn and the securities are usually senior unsecured. Issuers like them because they are callable after just five years. Frequently the bonds have higher yields than their convention counterparts. Finally, they pay interest four times a year rather than twice.


FINSUM: This is an interesting if niche asset class, but there is some appeal in the unique terms these “baby bonds” have. There are also some big name issuers like AT&T and eBay.

(New York)

One of Wall Street’s favorite trades has gone down the tubes this year, and for a classic reason. One of the hottest trades of this year has been to short ten-year Treasury bonds. Many institutional money managers believed that the bonds would see their yields rise and prices fall as the Fed raised rates and the US continued to grow at a quick pace. However, the opposite has happened recently, and ten-year Treasury bonds have seen their yields fall from well over 3% to just 2.83%. The reason why is a short squeeze. Short interest in the bonds rose from a net short position of around 75,000 futures contracts at the beginning of the year to almost 700,000 now.


FINSUM: We think there are a lot more factors keeping yields low than a short squeeze, but it is definitely a considerable component.

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