We have been running a lot of stories lately about the best investments for a rising rate environment. The reasons are obvious. However, instead of pointing out ETFs for allocation etc, we found a good piece interviewing money managers about how they are handling their portfolios. Some of those interviewed are relying on short-term bonds to minimize their rate risk. Since the yield curve is quite flat, you get almost no extra compensation for the rate risk of holding longer maturity bonds. One manager highlighted that bonds in the 2-5 year window were a sweet spot. Some also said the market is over-discounting inflation and that inflation linked assets were a good idea.
FINSUM: Short-term bonds seem a like good play, but we have also been impressed with the interest rate hedged ETFs out there, which often go long corporate bonds and short Treasuries to offset any losses. They seem to have performed well.
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.
There has been a lot of speculation about rising rates and whether the Fed might increase the pace of its hikes. However, until yesterday, that fear had not really exhibited itself in yields. Now everything is changed. Accordingly, Barron’s has run a piece highlighting two funds to help protect your portfolio from rising rates. One is the Loomis Sayles Bond fund (LSBRX) and the other is the Oakmark Equity & Income Fund (OAKBX). The former takes an all-bond approach to offset rate rises by loading up on shorter maturities. The Oakmark fund usually holds around 60% equities, with a mix of bonds making up the rest.
FINSUM: These are interesting choices. Whether to buy passive or active funds to offset rate hikes right now has to be the advisor’s choice. ETFs and mutual funds can both be good options depending on the approach one wants to take.
The big global selloff in sovereign bonds, which included US treasury bonds, has spilled over into the corporate bond sector in a big way. One of the biggest ETFs tracking US corporate bonds fell to 2013 lows today. “The jump in rates is inevitably detrimental to long-duration credit performance, with LQD a classic example”, said an analyst, citing BlackRock’s popular LQD corporate bond ETF. While corporate earnings look healthy, the big issue is that investment grade bonds tend to have higher durations than high yield, which means they suffer more when rates rise.
FINSUM: We wonder how much this jump in yields might start to really affect the giant mass of BBB bonds. This kind of move in yields could prove a tipping point.
Have you heard of the new “doom loop”? The term may seem vaguely familiar, and follows in a long line of sensationalist financial terms. Just like in its origin during the European debt crisis, the term once again refers to a European state sinking under the crushing weight of its own debt. You guessed it, Italy. The doom loop refers to the European bank habit of loading up on sovereign bonds, and in turn creating a negative reinforcment cycle where bonds fall in value, which leads to serious concerns over a bank meltdown, which then exacerbate the original economic fears. That is exactly what is now occurring after Italian bonds sold off steeply following the country’s wild budget approval.
FINSUM: Italy is one of the very largest debt markets and economies in the world, and a full scale meltdown there would surely impact global markets, even the Teflon-coated US stock market.
Rates are rising, and with it, investors need to take a closer look at their portfolios. Rising rates can have serious effects on some dividend-focused sectors, such as utilities, REITs, or consumer discretionary, and most bonds. With that in mind, here is an ETF to help combat rising rates. One fixed income ETF built for the current rate environment is the iShares Interest Rate Hedged Corp Bd ETF (LQDH). What makes this ETF special versus others is that it is actively managed and has longer-term fixed income exposures, which stands in sharp contrast to the mostly short-term bonds these funds typically hold. It holds a 3.62% yield and charges 0.24% per year.
FINSUM: That seems a good expense ratio and yield given that this is an actively managed fund. Interest rate hedged ETFs seem like a good idea right now given the strong economy and increasingly hawkish Fed.