Bonds: Total Market
The Pandemic has shifted the paradigm for many investors as they look to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) to make up a larger share of their portfolio. ESG will shape the future of investing but there is a new way to invest in green companies with a new twist. Sustainably linked bonds (SLB) allow firms to receive money for green energy initiatives but rather they will pay a penalty if they don’t meet expectations. Marilyn Ceci head of ESG development at JP Morgan expects SLB to hit $120-150 billion despite issuance since inception being only around $20 billion. SLB isn’t a threat to ESG as the industry is expected to grow from $270 billion last year to over $400 billion this year, but rather a compliment to the growing industry. ESG's ability to withstand the full business cycle is a testament to its future. FINSUM: SLB’s offer many companies a way to a greener future without an explicit plan, and are a reflection of how large ESG is growing. Other companies need a way to keep up with this burgeoning bond market.
The bond market is a powder keg that may have only started to explode, says ING. “The bond market has been sitting on a powder keg since last week. Attitude towards duration among fixed income investors has grown cautious, to put it mildly”, says Padhraic Garvey, regional head of research for the Americas at ING. “In this context, we do not blame investors for exiting at the first sign of a sell-off”, he continued.
FINSUM: Investors are currently terrified about inflation and it is hitting Treasury yields and tech stocks squarely on the chin. Our opinion is these fears are overblown and this is a market overreaction, especially as it regards tech stocks. These stocks are losing despite the fact that underlying fundamentals strongly favor the growth of tech earnings.
The fixed income market used to be where you went for safety and steady income. Those days seem long ago, and fixed income is not just as likely as any other asset class to eb the riskiest and most volatile in your portfolio. Between COVID and the Fed, interest rates are extremely low, with yields low and bond price very high, and vulnerable. Some have been comparing the situation to Japan in the 1990s and beyond, but there is a huge difference that makes the US bond market much worse than Japan ever was—inflation. When Japan started its massive zero rate, ultra-low yield period, it was experiencing deflation, which meant there was still a positive real rate. But that is not true in the US today, as yields are actually well below real-world inflation, meaning genuinely negative real interest rates.
FINSUM: There is ultimately going to have to be a reckoning in the bond market, because real returns are not sustainable. That said, it does not seem like the Fed is going to let that happen any time soon.
This is a difficult time to be any kind of investor, but being one trying to get yields out of equities is particularly hard-bitten at the moment. Dividends are being cut left and right, so investors need to turn to other options, but much of fixed income looks very scary. That said “Quality yield is on sale”, according to a fund manager at Tocqueville Asset management who specializes in income investments. “Don’t ignore the rest of the capital structure”, says another fund manager at Socoro Asset Management. For instance, look for things like a JP Morgan Chase preferred security with a fixed coupon of 5% and yield-to-call of 7.72%, or Invesco’s Variable Rate Preferred ETF (VRP), yielding 4.85%.
FINSUM: These are good suggestions. For a yield that will really knock your socks off, take a look at the Virtus Private Credit Strategy ETF (VPC), which owns many BDCs and CEFs and has been beaten up in the selloff, but yields a whopping ~18% net of expenses.