If rising rates weren’t scaring you a week ago, they surely are now, as the weight of rate rises has finally hit markets in a big way. With that said, here are some ETFs to help offset or benefit from rate hikes. Vanguard’s Short-Term Bond ETF (BSV) is a good bet, with an expense ratio of just 0.07% and a yield of about 3%. Another interesting one is the Invesco Senior Loan ETF (BKLN). The loans underlying this fund have their yields reset every 30 to 90 days, so your payout keeps rising with the market. The fund yields 4.19% and costs 0.65%. Lastly, take a look at the Fidelity’s Dividend ETF for Rising Rates (FDRR), which focuses on dividend growth stocks, a group that has historically performed well during periods of rising rates.
FINSUM: This a nice group of options, all of which are quite different from each other.
One of the most ominous signs surrounding the equity market this year are the inflow numbers into stock funds. In 2017, $517.2 bn of new money flowed into US ETFs and mutual funds from the start of the year through September. This year that number is down by almost 50% for the same period, as only $281.7 bn has flowed in. Actively managed mutual funds are seeing net withdrawals. According to Deloitte “It feels like investors are in the early stages of positioning themselves for a potential downturn … [they] are returning to cash and relatively defensive positions”.
FINSUM: Retail inflows and outflows have never been a very good indicator of coming market performance (much like sentiment), so take these figures with a grain of salt.
ETFs are a product that has been growing at breakneck speed. AUM in the product is approaching $4 tn, which is astonishing given that it has really only taken a decade to get there, but still quite a bit smaller than the $16 tn in mutual funds. Experts say that the ETF market is going to increasingly resemble the mutual fund market as offerings diversify into smart beta, thematic ETFs, customizable ETFs, and fixed income. The last area—fixed income—is where creative indexing makes the most sense, as doing so can account for the common weighting issues that are much riskier in bonds than in equities (you don’t want your largest holding to be the issuer with the most debt).
FINSUM: The logic for fixed income ETFs is very strong, especially given how illiquid and restrictive buying bonds directly is. However, smart beta and other active ETFs (which are more expensive) don’t really have a big leg up on experienced mutual funds.
Fighting the impact of rising rates on one’s portfolio is likely a primary goal of many advisors and investors right now, so we will be running a series of stories on the topic. For instance, Goldman Sachs has just released a new ETF in the area. In what is being called “smart beta exposure to bond markets”, Goldman has launched the Goldman Sachs Access Inflation Protected US Bond ETF (GTIP). The fund selectively chooses Treasury Inflation Protected Securities and costs 0.12% per year. “TIPS present an attractive diversification opportunity for many investors with relatively low correlations to other major asset classes”, says Goldman.
FINSUM: TIPS seem like a good investment right now, but we wonder how this will perform versus other rate hedged ETFs, most of which seem to have a different angle.. On the plus side, it is quite low cost.
In a sign that is setting off alarm bells on Wall Street, the market’s safest stocks have been surging of late. Investors are increasingly demanding “quality” stocks as a buffer against a potential downturn in the market. “Quality” stocks usually refers to to companies with a range of positive characteristics like high profitability and low debt. However, market strategists point out that such stocks are so well bought that they might not have their intended effect, “Quality factors are well bid so may not be as defensive as people expect”. ETFs that track “quality” stocks have been surging.
FINSUM: One can understand the flight to quality given very high valuations and the hawkish Fed, but it is still a worrying sign that so many feel the need to take cover.