When the Federal Reserve’s policymakers surprised investors and postponed their plans to taper bond purchases, both the stock and bond markets rallied on Wednesday. But now that the dust is settling, fixed income exchange traded fund flows have gone back to what they’ve been doing since early May: trending toward opportunities in yield-producing ETFs.
In a media conference call on Friday, Michael Iachini, Schwab’s managing director of ETF research, joined John Keller, State Street Global Advisors’ (SSgA) vice president of global cash and fixed income investment management, to identify where those opportunities might lie.
The focus of their call was on how ETFs are holding up in the rising interest rate environment, and the factors that investors should consider when looking for yield in bond ETFs. To be sure, both Iachini and Keller spoke of the risks implicit in high-yield bond ETFs, but they also asserted that yield has a key role to play in a broader allocation strategy.
“Obviously, the Fed’s statement surprised most of the market,” said Keller, whose firm is a partner on Schwab’s ETF OneSource commission-free platform. He noted that he saw one report showing institutional expectations were 99% that the Fed would announce a start to tapering.
While SSgA expects the Fed to begin tapering in mid-2014, rates are still low, and if not at all-time lows, then at historically low levels, Keller added. “Investors have to think of portfolio duration,” he said. “What investors need to think about is not that the Fed surprised the market, but that they need to make sure to think about the overall composition of their portfolios.”
In light of the bond market’s current low-yield conditions, Schwab’s managing director of ETF research, Michael Iachini, has identified four income-generating strategies for investors to consider:
1) High-yield bond funds. “A lot of investors are eager to jump into ETFs that pay a lot of income,” even though the underlying bonds are issued by by less creditworthy companies, Iachini said during a media call on Friday that also featured State Street Global Advisors’ John Keller.
Investor, be warned: “Typically, if you’re receiving good income from an ETF, there’s a catch: increased risk,” Iachini said. He observed that high-yield bonds — also known as “junk” — carry a default risk, and they move in tandem with the stock market.