Bonds: Total Market
The whole market is generally afraid of rising rates. Both in 2015 and 2018, there were significant mini-meltdowns about the prospect of aggressive rate rises. One of the aspects that most worries investors is that higher rates will drive participants out of stocks and into higher-yielding bonds. However, while true in some respects, that narrative is far too simple. Higher rates are a symptom of a healthy and growing economy, which means the business fundamentals driving stocks are getting better, a factor which is likely far more important than incremental changes in rates.
FINSUM: We think there is some wisdom in these words, especially as they perfectly encapsulate what has happened with the market this year.
There has been a lot of focus in the media lately about rising rates and what they will mean for investor portfolios. The ten-year yield is now well over 3% again, and the Fed looks likely to hike twice more before the end of the year. If your fixed income exposure (and equity exposure) isn’t carefully hedge, it could spell losses. Accordingly, here are three ETFs to help offset rate risk: the SPDR Blmbg Barclays Inv Grd Flt Rt ETF (FLRN), the iShares Floating Rate Bond ETF (FLOT), and the ProShares High Yield—Interest Rate Hdgd (HYHG). The first two rely on floating rate bonds of short maturities, while the ProShares fund goes long corporate bonds and short Treasuries.
FINSUM: The performance of these kind of hedged ETFs has been good since rates started rising a couple years ago. They seem to have an important role to play in portfolios right now.
Rising rates are definitively upon us. The Fed is poised to hike very soon and is likely to do so again before the end of the year. Some popular sectors, especially those with good dividends—REITs, utilities, telecoms—can suffer badly in rising rate periods. Luckily there are several ETFs that can help advisors hedge their exposure. The most common rate hedged ETFs are bond-based and use a strategy of buying higher-yielding corporate bonds and hedging their rate risk by short-selling Treasuries. The strategy seems to work well. For instance, the iShares Interest Rate Hedged Corporate Bond ETF (LQDH) gained about 11% between the 10-year Treasury’s low in July 2016 to now, while its unhedged cousin, the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) lost 0.45%.
FINSUM: That is quite a margin between the two funds, which is a testament to how well the strategy performs in rising rate periods. There are several similar funds out there, and they seem like a good idea right now.
There has been a lot of doom and gloom about the risks of an inverted yield curve lately. An inverted curve is often seen as the best and most reliable indicator of recession, as it has accurately preceded the last several US recessions. Some are saying this time may be different as market conditions and central bank created stimulus have warped markets. Well, despite the fact that many hate the “this time will be different” mantra, it may actually be true in this case. In particular, the inverted yield curve has only been reliable in the US, whereas in Japan and the UK it is not a good indicator. This means the indicator is by no means universal, and gives weight to the idea that an inversion does not necessarily mean a recession is coming.
FINSUM: The Japanese example is particularly interesting to us as the BOJ has long had extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy. In that sense it may be the best case study for how an inversion could play out this time.
Rates look to be rising quickly. The economy is red hot and the Fed is hawkish, meaning two more rate hikes this year look very likely. With that in mind, investors need to protect themselves from rate risk. That means a lot of sources of income, like dividends stocks and bonds, could become sources of losses. However, fortunately there are numerous ETFs that can help investors earn income while protecting against losses. One such is Pimco’s 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond (HYS). The ETF has a yield approaching 5% and has a duration of just over 2 years, putting it in the low duration category (meaning it has low rate risk).
FINSUM: This seems like a good option if you want to earn high rate-protected income. Given the current rate environment, funds like these should probably be a fixture of most portfolios.
If there were ever a time to be worried about rate risk it is now. The US economy is red hot and the Fed continues to look hawkish. Two rate hikes by the end of the year look like a certainty. So how can one protect their portfolio? One answer is floating rate bonds, and especially floating rate investment grade bonds with a range of durations. One ETF that does just that is the X-trackers Investment Grade Bond – Interest Rate Hedged ETF (IGIH). The ETF sports a yield of over 3%, and very importantly, it has a duration of almost zero, meaning it should be almost completely unaffected by any movement in rates.
FINSUM: a 3% yield with no rate risk sounds like a very good investment in the current environment.