With all of the volatility of the last months, bond ETFs are taking on a new life. As an asset class, bond ETFs have surged in popularity in recent years as a much easier and cheaper way of accessing bond market liquidity. Recently, bond ETFs have seen their role morph. Whereas they have often been seen as a safe haven from periods of volatility, they are now being used as a risk management tool, says the head of iShares U.S. Wealth Advisory Product Consulting at BlackRock.
FINSUM: So many of the newer bond ETFs are designed to thrive in volatile markets, not just provide a low volatility safe haven. This means they are more of a proactive than reactive product.
The chances of a war breaking out with Iran are not minute. They are probably not high, but significant enough that it is worth having a plan. It may be unseemly to think about asset prices during armed conflict, but just because a war has broken out does mean one’s duty to protect clients ends. The key thing to remember is not to panic. Selling into a panic is a bad idea, and historically speaking, the market tends to be higher six months later anyway. Generally speaking, that is the trend in past armed conflicts. There is an initial fall in stocks, only to be followed by a subsequent rise over the next six months to above the starting level.
FINSUM: We do not think a war with Iran will happen. This seems more like simple political wrangling.
Bonds and stocks are at odds right now. Yields have dropped considerably as the bond market is predicting pain to come. Stocks have sold off, but are still around all-time highs. If you look at how money markets are currently priced they imply a whopping 20% decline in stocks. There is not a much macro data to support the money markets’ pricing, but it is certainly a sign to pay attention to. “The rates market has probably overreacted relative to other asset classes in the last two weeks. However, the macro backdrop is fundamentally more uncertain today”, says Deutsche Bank, continuing “The renewed trade tensions create downside risks which were deemed to be negligible 2 months ago”.
FINSUM: Stocks are going to react to economic data and the trade war, so the current forecasts for stock prices are only as good as one’s ability to prognosticate those factors.
Whenever serious volatility strikes, investors get very nervous and don’t know how to react. One of the big questions is should I stay in the market? The other is which assets should I buy? Surprisingly, there is a fairly simple solution to handle volatility: every time the market moves wildly, hedge your portfolio with cash and/or options. When the markets calm down, unwind the hedge. Returns on stocks have actually been historically strongest during periods of low volatility (not the opposite).
FINSUM: The most interesting aspect here is that studies show that market returns have been highest in low volatility periods. Many people think that you have to stay in the market during volatile periods to make great returns, but that is simply not the case.
The trade war is scaring investors and tightening up markets. Benchmark indices have had a rough time this week and new data on investor flows should add to worries. UBS group, the world’s largest wealth manager, has just put out data on the holdings of its high net worth portfolios. The info shows that the world’s wealthy have 32% of their capital sitting in cash. In the US the figure was lower, at just 23%. UBS think that investors have become too conservative.
FINSUM: This is actually quite a bullish indicator for us. The markets have managed to rise a lot this year and there is still a lot of dry powder to push them higher.