Blackrock expanded its fixed-income ETF lineup with the launch of the BlackRock AAA CLO ETF (CLOA). The fund, which was launched on January 10th, seeks to provide capital preservation and current income by investing principally in a portfolio composed of U.S. dollar-denominated AAA-rated collateralized loan obligations (CLOs). According to Investopedia, a CLO is a bundle of loans that are ranked below investment grade. While the underlying loans are rated below investment grade, most CLO tranches are typically rated investment grade due to credit enhancements and diversification. CLOs have historically only been available to institutional investors, but Janus Henderson launched the first CLO fund in an ETF wrapper in October 2020. That fund, the Janus Henderson AAA CLO ETF (JAAA) was clearly able to find an audience since the fund currently has close to $2 billion in assets under management. This bodes well for CLOA, which has an expense ratio of 0.20%, six basis points cheaper than JAAA. Investors have been attracted to CLOs due to low volatility, low downgrade risk, and low correlations with traditional fixed-income assets. CLOA currently has a weighted average coupon of 5.40 and a weighted average maturity of 4.24 years.


Finsum: Blackrock launched an AAA CLO ETF to take advantage of investor CLO interest due to low volatility, low downgrade risk, and low correlations with traditional fixed income.

Principal Asset Management recently announced that it is enhancing its fintech-enabled model portfolios by incorporating individual bonds as an option for the portfolios. The company collaborated with YieldX and Smartleaf Asset Management to offer the only full portfolio direct indexing solution, enabling advisors to expand the capabilities of direct indexing beyond equities to individual bonds. Principal launched fintech-enabled model portfolios last year in collaboration with Smartleaf to make it easy to construct and manage custom portfolios. As part of the announcement, Jill Brown, Principal's managing director of U.S. Wealth Platform, stated, “We are the first asset manager to work with YieldX to incorporate individual bonds into model portfolios, making the combinations of mutual funds, ETFs, individual equities, and now individual bonds available through our 37 model portfolios even more powerful.” Adam Green, CEO of YieldX added “Through the addition of capabilities from YieldX, advisors will now have the option to include individual fixed-income securities.”


Finsum:Principal collaborated with YieldX and Smartleaf to offer individual bonds as part of its direct indexing model portfolios.

Corporate executives are warning that the volatile market, combined with the Fed’s rate hikes and the war in Ukraine will negatively impact fourth-quarter earnings, while analysts have downgraded earnings expectations in every sector. However, there may be a bright spot during earnings season, ETF issuers. According to ETF.com data, ETF flows came in at $203 billion in the fourth quarter, nearly double the third quarter's flows of $105 billion. The increase in flows should help fourth-quarter earnings for ETF issuers. It would also be a reversal from the previous quarter when State Street reported $14 billion in net outflows and Schwab’s ETF revenue declined sharply. ETF inflows at BlackRock’s iShares also fell by more than half compared with the third quarter of last year. The surge in inflows during the fourth quarter can be attributed to the rising demand for fixed-income ETFs. Investors are flocking to bond ETFs as they are considered safe havens during downturns. BlackRock President Rob Kapito said on the company’s third-quarter earnings call, “We're going to see dramatic and large inflows into fixed income over the next year as interest rates rise.” ETF.com data shows that fixed-income funds saw inflows of $61 billion in the fourth quarter, up nearly 13% from the $54 billion in the prior-year quarter.  


Finsum:While analysts are predicting a dismal fourth-quarter earnings season, ETF issuers may be a bright spot as fixed-income funds saw inflows of $61 billion during the quarter.

Last month, we wrote about a survey that revealed advisors are seeing the importance of active ETFs since owning passive index-only ETFs left them too exposed to market conditions. Another survey was performed this month showing similar results. VettaFi held a webcast called Active Strategies for Rising Rate Headwinds that featured Franco Ditri and Chris Murphy of T. Rowe Price and Todd Rosenbluth of VettaFi talking about the Fed’s monetary policy outlook and how financial advisors can incorporate active strategies into a bond portfolio. After the webcast, a poll was taken revealing that more advisors are seeing the need to add active management to their portfolios, given the likelihood that the Fed will continue to raise rates. The majority of respondents expect to increase their exposure to active ETF strategies, with 50% being “very likely” and 39% saying they are “somewhat likely.” Of those, 39% of respondents said they would most likely consider high-yield/bank loan funds for exposure, with 27% saying they would consider active short-term bond funds. In addition, 20% are contemplating core-plus and 14% are looking toward core bond funds. If the Fed continues its tightening policy, actively managed fixed-income strategies could help reduce risk.


Finsum:A post-webcast poll revealed that more advisors are seeing the importance of active fixed income with the Fed continuing to pursue a tight monetary policy.

While rising interest rates last year battered both stocks and bonds, the rise in rates brought higher yields to the fixed-income market. According to Dow Jones Market Data, the yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose 2.330 percentage points in 2022 to 3.826%, its largest annual gain on record. The two-year Treasury yields surged 3.669 percentage points to 4.399%, while the 30-year yield jumped 2.046 percentage points to end the year at 3.934%. These marked the largest annual increases ever for those notes. The jump in yields drove investors into fixed-income ETFs last year, with BlackRock's iShares dominating inflows. In a phone interview with Morningstar, Salim Ramji, BlackRock's global head of iShares and index investments, stated "We had record flows even in one of the worst fixed-income markets. We were twice the next competitor." Based on data from Morningstar Direct, iShares attracted around $100 billion in 2022, the most among U.S.-listed ETFs that invest in fixed income. Vanguard saw the second biggest fixed-income ETF inflows with around $49 billion, followed by State Street with about $21 billion. The most popular fixed-income ETF based on inflows last year was the iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT), which gathered around $15 billion.


Finsum: In an ugly year for fixed-income markets, bond ETFs continued to see strong inflows due to higher yields with Blackrock’s iShares leading the pack.

After a tough year for fixed income, many bond strategists are expecting 2023 to be a great year for bonds. But where should advisors and investors look to invest? In an interview with Yahoo Finance Live, PIMCO Managing Director and Portfolio Manager Sonali Pier offered her perspective on where the sweet spot will be for bonds this year. She believes that despite potential volatility, “there’s a lot of room now for income-producing assets.” She stated, that “a sweet spot may be those Triple Bs within investment grade, for example, where dollar prices have come down a lot as a result of the interest rates rising as well as credit spreads having widened.” In the interview, she also talked about what areas of the corporate bond market to avoid. Her firm is most concerned with areas where there are “low multiples on businesses, low margins, high cyclicality, where it's very difficult to weather a storm like a recession when you have those types of things against you as well as still inflation as an impact.” She mentioned industries such as retail, autos, and wire lines to avoid that are seeing declines due to a “shift in investor demand as well as disruption from the supply chain.”


Finsum:PIMCO portfolio manager Sonali Pier believes that a sweet spot for bonds this year may be triple Bs within investment grade while avoiding industries such as retail, autos, and wire lines.

According to Cerulli Associates' U.S. Exchange-Traded Fund Markets 2022 report, active fixed-income ETFs present a massive opportunity for firms. Daniil Shapiro, a director in product development at Cerulli, said in a recent interview that "a mix of factors" have combined to create the opportunity. He stated, "You have investors that are showing an increased preference for the ETF structure and they're increasingly open to accessing fixed income through the ETF structure. At the same time, you have interest rates that are increasing, which makes fixed income more attractive to investors." The report was based on polling Cerulli conducted in the third and fourth quarters of last year. It revealed that among advisers using ETFs, the portion using U.S. fixed-income ETFs has continued to increase, with 70% reporting such use in 2022, up from 63% in 2021. In addition, when ETF issuers were asked to gauge key drivers of fixed-income ETF flows over the next 24 months, greater adviser familiarity with fixed-income ETFs topped the list, cited by 66% of respondents. The second biggest driver was the increased use of fixed-income ETFs by institutions, which was cited by 55% of respondents.


Finsum:According to a new report by Cerulli Associates, active fixed-income ETFs present a massive opportunity for firms due to investors preferring the ETF structure and fixed income being more attractive with higher rates.

According to a post-viewer poll following a VettaFi active fixed-income webcast, financial advisors seemed to be warming up to having more actively managed bond ETFs in their client’s portfolios. After viewing the webcast Active Fixed-Income Answers to Tight Monetary Policy, half of the respondents said that they are very likely to increase their exposure to active ETF strategies in the future, while 37.5% said they are somewhat likely to do so. The poll also found that "56% said they were concerned that owning passive index-only ETFs left them too exposed to market conditions without forward-looking risk controls or the ability to pivot to make changes, with 44% saying they were ‘very concerned’.” Todd Rosenbluth, head of research at VettaFi had this to say about the results, “With the heightened market volatility of 2022 likely to persist into the new year, advisors are increasingly interested in ETFs where, rather than shifting to a more offensive or defensive stance, they can take advantage of the expertise of managers who can shift exposure based on the latest developments.” With ETF firms launching more actively managed funds amid market volatility and inflation, investors are looking to active management to help guide their portfolios.


Finsum:A recent poll by VettaFi found that more advisors are seeing the importance of active fixed income in their client portfolios.

Institutional investor portfolios are expected to look very different next year. For the first time in years, short-term government bonds are yielding more than 4 percent. This could lead to widespread changes in asset allocation, as investors won't have to allocate as much to equities. When rates were near zero, institutional investors had more stocks in their portfolios than they would have liked as a higher equity allocation brought on more risk. But now that yields are much higher, investors can once again allocate to fixed income. Even CDs are yielding nearly 4 percent. Mike Harris, president of the quantitative manager Quest Partners told Institutional Investor that “When central banks were printing money and forcing rates close to zero…people said, ‘We don’t want any fixed income in the portfolio,’ which is crazy to me. It’s been a building block of traditional portfolios for as long as I can remember. Investors were adamant about finding ‘somewhere else to park that capital,’ even if that meant taking on unwanted risk.” Now that bonds are much more appealing due to the higher yields, Harris expects that there are going to be some significant changes in asset allocation.


Finsum:A rise in yields for low-risk bonds could have major implications for institutional asset allocation next year.

According to the new InspereX 2023 Advisor Outlook Survey, 74% of financial advisors said they expect the inverted yield curve between the 2-year and 10-year Treasuries to continue into the second quarter of 2023. This includes 40% who expect it to last beyond the third quarter. An inverted yield curve occurs when short-term yields are higher than long-term yields. It is also often considered a signal for a recession. InspereX provides advisors, institutional investors, issuers, and risk managers deep access to fixed-income market data across asset classes. The survey was conducted between November 8th and 21st, 2022, among 270 financial advisors by Red Zone Marketing. The respondents represented advisors from independent and regional broker-dealers, banks, and RIAs. InspereX President David Rudd stated, “While many advisors are bullish on stocks in 2023 and optimistic about moderating inflation, their views on a continuation of the inverted Treasury yield curve indicate that the first half of the year could be bumpy.” However, advisors also believe that rising inflation is over, with 75% saying it has peaked. While many advisors say their clients are concerned about fixed-income volatility, they were not too scared to invest in fixed-income right now. In fact, the survey found that 68% of advisors are using individual bonds with their clients, mainly for income (56%) and diversification (23%).


Finsum:A recent survey revealed that advisors are concerned that the inverted yield will continue into next year, indicating the possibility of a recession.

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