Junk-bond ETFs showed a slight uptick, suggesting potential outperformance in 2024, especially under a soft-landing scenario for the US economy, according to Michael Arone of State Street Global Advisors.
While high-yield bonds may surprise investors with their resilience, concerns persist about the Fed's tightening and its impact on economic growth. Despite recent modest gains, ETFs tracking investment-grade bonds are still in the red for the year.
Investors remain cautious about high-yield spreads and potential widening, with some preferring rate risk over credit risk. Arone suggests a diversified approach, favoring short-term debt and bonds with intermediate durations.
Finsum: Duration management could be the key to weathering the storm in 2024.
BNP Paribas Asset Management has introduced a new ESG active fixed income ETF range, starting with the BNP Paribas Easy Sustainable EUR Corporate Bond and BNP Paribas Easy Sustainable EUR Government Bond ETFs. These ETFs aim to replicate benchmark performance while integrating sustainable principles using BNPP AM's ESG methodology and exclusion policies.
The firm's Head of Index & ETF Strategies highlighted the agility of this approach in responding to controversies and adapting to changing environmental factors, aligning with sustainability label criteria. BNP made a commitment in January to improving its offerings around ESG offerings and this new suite of investments will fall in line with those goals.
Lorraine Sereyjol-Garros, Global Head of Development for ETFs & Index Funds at BNPP AM, emphasized the importance of active ESG fixed income management in navigating the challenging market landscape, offering diversification and sustainable credentials in an affordable and convenient ETF structure.
Finsum: Active bond funds could be critical to navigating the landscape of 2024 as macro volatility is looming.
Buffered ETFs are a relatively new type of fund that offers a unique risk-management approach. These funds track an underlying index to replicate its performance while providing a "buffer" against significant losses. However, this protection comes at a cost, as the fund's upside is capped at a predetermined level.
As investor interest in buffered ETFs has grown, fund providers have diversified their offerings by tracking various indices and offering a range of buffer and cap levels. Several applications for these funds have also emerged, such as the ability to put cash to use that might otherwise be held out of the market.
Investors in or nearing retirement are particularly susceptible to market volatility, often resorting to holding cash to protect against short-term market fluctuations. While providing protection, this strategy also prevents them from participating in potential market growth.
Buffered ETFs bridge this gap, allowing investors to enjoy market gains up to the defined cap while safeguarding against substantial losses. With this level of protection built into the fund, investors may have more confidence to transition a portion of their portfolio out of cash and back into the market.
Finsum: Investors in or near retirement who fear market downside now have a place to invest that cash they have been holding on the sidelines: buffered ETFS.
Many asset managers are increasingly confident that private real estate is at or very close to the bottom of its cycle and presenting an opportunity for outsized returns. It’s a major shift from last year when many funds had to put limits on redemptions. This year, institutional investors are increasing allocations in anticipation of an improving macro environment.
Additionally, many believe that concerns about commercial real estate are exaggerated. Other than the office sector, most segments have strong fundamentals. Recently, deal volume has improved as sellers have come down on price. Overall, it’s estimated that prices are down on average by 18.5% from the peak.
Over the last decade, private real estate in the US generated annual returns of 6.4%. According to James Corl, the head of private real estate at Cohen & Steers, returns will average between 10% and 12% in 2024 and 2025. He added that returns in private real estate are highest a year after the Fed stops tightening.
Many investors are anticipating attractive deals in the coming months as there could be several forced sellers with many borrowers needing to refinance at higher rates. Over the next 2 years, $1.2 trillion of commercial real estate loans will mature. At the end of the year, it was estimated that about $85.5 billion of this debt was distressed.
Finsum: Asset managers are increasingly bullish on private real estate. History shows that the asset class generates outsized returns in the periods that follow the end of a Fed tightening cycle.
State Street Global Advisors is looking to grow its model portfolio business from $5 billion currently to over $25 billion by the end of this decade. Model portfolios are experiencing increasing popularity among financial advisors and clients. They enable advisors to bundle funds into specialized, off-the-shelf strategies, creating more time and resources for client engagement and financial planning.
At the moment, Blackrock is the clear leader with nearly $100 billion in assets tied to its model portfolios. Recently, the asset manager predicted that over the next 5 years, model portfolios’ total assets will exceed $10 trillion over the next 5 years from $4 trillion as of July 2023. State Street is aiming to capture a piece of this expanding market.
Peter Hill, State Street’s head of model portfolios solutions, remarked, “We are fully committed to investing in our model portfolio business to meet the needs of our advisors and our platforms as their adoption rate of models continues to grow.” To achieve this, State Street is investing in the segment from an ‘infrastructure perspective’. This includes hiring employees in sales and marketing while also increasing outreach to advisors.
Finsum: State Street is looking to grow its model portfolio segment by 5-folds over the next 5 years. Over the next 5 years, model portfolio assets are forecast to exceed $10 trillion from $4 trillion currently.