Morgan Stanley recently announced the launch of an exchange-traded fund platform with the listing of six Calvert ETFs on NYSE Arca, including an actively managed fixed-income ETF. The Calvert Ultra-Short Investment Grade ETF (CVSB) will focus on investment-grade debt issuers. Managers Eric Jesionowski and Brian S. Ellis seek to maximize income, to the extent consistent with the preservation of capital, through investment in short-term bonds and income-producing securities. Investors will gain diversified short-term fixed-income exposure to an actively managed portfolio of high-quality bonds of issuers that Calvert believes are demonstrating effective management of key ESG risks and opportunities. The other five ETFs include four indexed ESG equity strategies and an active ESG strategy. The funds include the Calvert US Large-Cap Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Index ETF (CDEI), the Calvert US Large-Cap Core Responsible Index ETF (CVLC), the Calvert International Responsible Index ETF (CVIE), the Calvert US-Mid Cap Core Responsible Index ETF (CVMC), and the Calvert US Select Equity ETF (CVSE). As part of the announcement, Dan Simkowitz, head of Morgan Stanley Investment Management, said the following in a statement. “This launch is the first step in MSIM’s development of a robust ETF platform that supports products across our businesses, asset classes, jurisdictions, and brands.”
Finsum:Morgan Stanley announced the launch of an ETF platform and the listing of six Calvert ETFs, including an actively managed ultra-short investment grade ETF.
Based on the latest treasury yield movements, investors are bracing for a recession. Yields on the benchmark U.S. 10-year Treasury note have fallen by around 83 basis points from their October high of 4.338% as investors sent $4.89 billion into U.S. bond funds last week. That marks the third straight week of net inflows. The bond rally comes after Treasuries had the worst year ever, driven by the Fed's tightening policy. The key driver for the current rally has been concerns over the Fed's rate increases sending the U.S. economy into a recession. Treasuries are typically seen as a safe haven during economic uncertainty. Investors expect the Fed to raise rates by another 25 basis points at the end of its monetary policy meeting today, while Wall Street is also looking for signs that the Fed will pull back on its hawkish stance amid falling inflation. Rob Daly, director of fixed income at Glenmede Investment Management told Reuters that "Things are coming off the boil here. There is a de-risking that's happening, and we're seeing flows out of equities into higher quality parts of the market such as fixed income." Although stocks have been rallying since late last year, investors are playing it safe, expecting the rally to end if a recession hits.
Finsum:While stocks have been in a mini rally since the end of last year, investors are playing it safe flooding U.S. bonds funds in the expectation of a recession.
After struggling under deficits for two decades, pension funds are now flooded with cash due to soaring interest rates. The surplus at corporate defined-benefit plans means managers can now reallocate to bonds, which are less volatile than stocks. This is called “derisking” in the industry. Mike Schumacher, head of macro strategy at Wells Fargo, said the following in an interview, “The pensions are in good shape. They can now essentially immunize — take out the equities, move into bonds, and try to have assets match liabilities.” That explains some of the rallying of the bond market over the last three or four weeks.” Last year’s stock and bond market losses actually helped some benefit plans, whose future costs are a function of interest rates. When rates rise, their liabilities shrink and their funded status improves. For instance, the largest 100 US corporate pension plans now have an average funding ratio of about 110%. According to the Milliman 100 Pension Funding index, that’s the highest level in more than two decades and great news for fund managers who had to deal with low-interest rates and were forced to chase returns in the equity market. Now managers can unwind that imbalance with most banks expecting them to use the extra cash on buying bonds and selling stocks to buy more bonds.
Finsum: Due to stock and bond losses and rising rates, pension fund managers now have a surplus of funds that they plan on allocating to bonds.
Putnam recently announced the launch of five new transparent, actively managed exchange-traded funds, including three fixed-income ETFs that build upon the capabilities and experience of the firm’s Fixed Income team. The bond ETFs include the Putnam ESG Core Bond ETF (PCRB), the Putnam ESG High Yield ETF (PHYD), and the Putnam ESG Ultra Short ETF (PULT). As part of the announcement, Carlo Forcione, Head of Product and Strategy at Putnam stated, “We are enthused about extending our ETF product shelf into the actively managed fixed income and non-U.S. equity spaces.” PCRB invests in bonds of governments and private companies located in the United States that are investment grade in quality with intermediate- to long-term maturities with a focus on issuers that Putnam believes meet relevant ESG criteria. PHYD invests in bonds that are below investment grade in quality which are obligations of U.S. issuers and have intermediate- to long-term maturities. The fund will also focus on issuers that Putnam believes meet relevant ESG criteria on a sector-specific basis. PULT invests in a diversified portfolio of fixed-income securities composed of short-duration, investment-grade money market, and other fixed-income securities, with a focus on issuers that the firm believes meet relevant ESG criteria on a sector-specific basis.
Finsum:Putnam recently launched three actively managed bond ETFs, including the Putnam ESG Core Bond ETF, the Putnam ESG High Yield ETF, and the Putnam ESG Ultra Short ETF.
While bonds are generally known for their stability, 2022 marked a deviance from the norm. The question for advisors is, how should they approach 2023? Mariam Kamshad, head of portfolio strategy for Goldman Sachs personal financial management, and Guido Petrelli, CEO, and founder of Merlin Investor spoke to SmartAsset to provide some guidance. First advisors should expect a return to the norm. Kamshad said 2022 was an unusually bad environment for bonds with the Federal Reserve raising rates to a 15-year high. She believes that's unlikely to repeat and expects both yields and capital gains returns to stabilize. Second, advisors should pay attention to inflation and government bonds. Kamshad believes that inflation is still the biggest issue in the economy and expects it to continue slowing in 2023, which would likely slow interest rates. Her team considers duration risk a better bet than credit risk. Kamshad's team also recommends investors consider government bonds. The team expects intermediate Treasurys to outperform cash. They also expect municipal bonds to pick back up. Petrelli recommends following the unemployment rate and the quit rate as they are “good metrics for the strength of the economy overall and a window into where bonds are headed.” He believes a potential recession is one of the biggest questions facing the bond market. In a recession, Petrelli expects investors to favor short-term bonds.
Finsum:According to two portfolio analysts, advisors should expect a return to the norm for bonds, but they should also keep an eye on inflation, government bonds, and the jobs report.
According to Vanguard, investors that allocated part of their portfolios to low-yielding municipal bonds at the beginning of last year should now be looking forward to the prospect of higher income, thanks to a rapid rise in rates. In a fixed-income report for the first quarter, the fund firm wrote, “Following a year with $119 billion of outflows from municipal funds and ETFs, we expect the tide to turn. For high-income taxable investors, we are expecting a municipal bond renaissance.” According to the report, muni bonds only offered yields of around 1% at the start of 2022, compared to yields that now exceed 3% before adjusting for tax benefits. Tax-equivalent yields are at 6% or even “meaningfully higher for residents in high-tax states who invest in corresponding state funds.” Vanguard said that this makes munis a “great value compared with other fixed income sectors and potentially even equities—especially with the odds of a recession increasing.” According to the Vanguard report, muni bonds also remain strong from a credit perspective, with attractive spreads over comparable U.S. Treasurys and corporate debt. In fact, municipal balance sheets are stronger now than they’ve been in two decades, leaving states well-prepared to navigate an economic slowdown.
Finsum:According to Vanguard, higher yields and solid balance sheets make muni bonds a highly attractive option for investors this year.