Displaying items by tag: fixed income
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.
Bonds have been in a bull market for the entire living memory of almost everyone in the financial industry. Yields are extremely low, prices are high, and stocks are peaking every week. Even if you are worried about bonds, the odds that they keep rising seem strong given some undeniably supportive factors. Those include a Fed that not only says it has no intention of hiking rates, but is actually undertaking a stealth form of QE by buying $60 bn of Treasury bills every month to make sure the financial system has adequate cash reserves.
FINSUM: Everything in the market is pointing to a repeat of the post-Crisis market paradigm—ultra-low rates, rising stocks. Should we expect a different outcome this time?
This is a tough market. Stocks are right near all-time highs and bond yields are near all-time lows. So how can an investor find steady current income and keep the door open to capital appreciation? Enter an underappreciated asset class—convertible bonds. Often referred to as “equities with training wheels”, convertible bonds have a lot of the upside of stocks due to their conversion feature, but also the downside protection of bonds because of their income feature. According to a convertible fund manager at Franklin, “You don’t get all the equity upside, but you can only fall so far because you have the downside protection of the bond”. Look to find converts with 7% of the equity upside of stocks, but only 50% of the downside risk.
FINSUM: Converts have actually outperformed a 60/40 balanced portfolio historically (by almost 2% per year with a similar level of volatility!). Some funds to look at include FISCX, PACIX, and AVK.
Bond ETFs ae set to break a landmark record this year—$1 tn in AUM. The number is a big deal for bond ETFs, which got off to a slower start than their equity counterparts. In recent years, though, bond ETFs have seen huge inflows as they allow investors a more liquid option for both strategic and longer-term allocations. The market is also seeing a good deal of innovation, with more nuanced approaches spreading much like they have in equities.
FINSUM: Overall this is excellent news for investors. More AUM means more liquidity, more options, and lower costs. There are still some fears about a liquidity mismatch between the ETF and the underlying blowing up during a crisis, but those have never materialized.
Active funds have been much maligned in the press over the last couple of years. The rise of passive investing has drawn the value of active investing into question, and the media has focused lot of attention on large groups of underperforming funds. That said, active funds, at least in fixed income, are winning right now. In every period from one to ten-years, actively managed bond funds have outperformed ETFs. Such funds are less constrained in their ability to seek out safe high yields, whether that be in junk bonds or emerging markets.
FINSUM: In many ways this makes sense, as there are many more bonds than there are equities, which means that there is likely more alpha to be generated through an unconstrained approach.