Tag Archives: HYG

High Yield ETFs Take a Tumble

High-yield corporate bond ETFs tumbled today.

“This looks to be an exit trade from this asset class,” said Chris Hempstead, director of ETF execution services at WallachBeth Capital in a note, rather than a move to receive delivery of actual bonds.

Specifically, Hempstead’s desk has been very active in SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF (JNK), which dropped 1.3% to $38.19; iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG), which fell 1.4% to $87.59; PowerShares Fundamental High Yield Corporate Bond Portfolio (PHB), down 0.4% to $18.46, and SPDR Barclays Capital Short Term High Yield Bond ETF (SJNK), down 0.6% to $29.70.

After a redemption of about $725 million in the SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF last week, allegedly for delivery of actual bonds, Hempstead says the pace of selling in high yield ETFs needs to be closely monitored.

So far this year, each of these funds has seen a significant increase in assets, for a total of more than $6 billion year-to-date. With the iBoxx fund holding $14.8 billion in assets under management, the SPDR high yield ETF holding $11.2 billion, the PowerShares ETF at $943 million and $119 million in the SPDR short-term high yield, all the funds have about doubled their assets since January 2011, says Hempstead.

“We are watching closely to see how well the Street can absorb a short-term exit strategy from these funds,” said Hempstead in a note. “How would the fixed income world respond to a heavy and swift sell-off in an ETF product space that has seen a steady inflow of assets for almost 18 months?”

He adds the products have started trading at a discount to their respective NAV, which is not uncommon, but they have a tendency to trade at a premium for longer periods than at a discount.

Small ETFs Struggle as 18 Funds Hold Half of Industry’s Assets

If you’re looking for a reason why many of the ETFs launched last year failed to raise the $30 million in assets necessary to turn a profit and stay open take a look at the $10 Billion Club.

While there are more than $1 trillion in assets in the entire U.S. ETF industry, the majority are confined to about 100 funds, “leaving the other 1,300 ETFs in the dust,” says ETF Database.

Yesterday, I said many investors remain risk-adverse in today’s volatile market, leaving them squeamish about buying into hypertargeted ETPs. They prefer to stick with big, liquid funds tracking well-known indexes both because they understand what the index tracks and because they can get out quickly in an emergency. Other reasons why small, niche funds are having a hard time gathering assets is because institutional investors and investment advisors are restricted to buying products with minumum requirements for assets under management, average daily volume and age of the fund.

This leaves just 18 ETFs holding nearly half the assets of the entire ETF industry, according to ETF Database, which calls the group the $10 billion club because they all have more than that under management.

It’s no surprise who tops the list:

SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
SPDR Gold Trust (GLD)
Vanguard MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (VWO)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index Fund (EFA)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index Fund (EEM)
iShares S&P 500 Index Fund
(IVV)
PowerShares QQQ (QQQ)

The big surprises to my eyese were the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond Fund (LDQ) and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG).

Fund Manager Says Sell High Yield and Emerging Markets

Frank Barbera, portfolio manager of the Sierra Core Retirement Fund, last week chatted with me about the market. Barbera runs a fund of funds that is very risk adverse and seeks to protect capital in a down market. During the 2008 crash, his fund fell just 2.8% vs. the 37% plunge in the S&P 500.

Over the last few weeks, Barbera has see such a decline in high-yield bonds that he’s exited all his positions and is now cutting back on emerging-market debt. He also sold all his holdings in emerging-markets equities, such as iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM).

Barbera says anything linked to China has experienced a substantial decline, with emerging markets posting poor relative strength for the past six months. “There’s been no bounce,” he says, “We think Asia might slow down from both rising interest rates and higher-than-reported inflation.”

Because China’s currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar, he says our low interest rate policy is being exported to Asia and causing a lot of instability. Asia’s inflation problem and the enormous housing boom in Asia and Australia are a result of the U.S.’s loose monetary policy.

“With the reckless lending practices in those real-estate markets, we are preparing for a big downturn,” says Barbera. “Something is going to give and give big.”

He says the estimates for China’s bad loans could be as high as $5 trillion, which is nearly 100% of China’s GDP, sparking a deep recession and very hard landing. He adds that areas with strong real-estate markets, such as Australia , Hong Kong and Vancouver could soon deflate and see significant slow down.

He recommends getting rid of high-yield bonds and emerging-market debt and equities and says it’s time to move into short-term high-grade AAA corporate bonds.

Last month, I wrote about getting out of iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG) and the SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF (JNK). Since then HYG has gained 2.2% and JNK 1%.

For short-term high-grade bond ETFs check out Barclays 1-3 Year Credit Bond Fund (CSJ), which has an expense ratio of 0.2%, and the SPDR Barclays Capital Short Term Corporate Bond ETF (SCPB), which charges 0.125%

High Yield ETFs Look Especially Risky Now

Robert Powell of MarketWatch today says you should buy junk bonds, while Zero Hedge says he’s turned bearish on the sector.

I’m going to go with Zero Hedge because he makes a more compelling case, and in fact, if you didn’t see the headline on the Marketwatch story, you might think it was telling you to sell as well. In fact, the Marketwatch story’s big bull, Steve Huber, manager of the T.Rowe Price Strategic Income fund says, “To be sure, there is a scenario when investing in junk bonds might not so wise. If the U.S. growth slowdown proves not to be temporary and European periphery issues deteriorate further, the general selloff in risk assets could accelerate.”

It sure looks like that’s happening. And investors aren’t waiting around to see what happens. Powell says junk bond mutual funds saw $1.6 billion in outflows in just one week this month.

Meanwhile, ZeroHedge is down on the entire high-yield market, especially Greek, Irish and Portuguese bonds. However, he is particularly bearish on the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG) and the SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF (JNK).

He says if the junk bonds continue to see heavy outflows “it will be hard for high yield to maintain current prices, particularly given how illiquid it currently is.” He says you can tell how illiquid they market has become by the haircuts both funds took last Thursday, when HYG fell 2%. As trading volumes in junk bonds fell and bid/ask spreads widened, institutional investors sold the ETFs rather than the actual bonds. With the liquidity at an extreme low, he says cut your high-yield risk, and is on the verge of shorting the ETFs.

ETF Lets Investors Short High-Yield Bonds

ProShares today launched the first ETF that provides inverse exposure to the high-yield bond market. The ProShares Short High Yield (SJB) seeks to provide 100% the opposite daily performance of the Markit iBoxx $ Liquid High-Yield Index, before expenses. The ETF lists on NYSE Arca and charges an expense ratio of 0.95%.

Today’s volume was a measly 7,700 shares and the fund ended flat at its launch price of $40.

“High-yield bonds have had a strong rebound since the financial crisis, with indexes reaching all-time highs and high-yield funds attracting significant inflows over the past two years,” said Michael L. Sapir, chairman and CEO of ProShares Advisors in a written statement. “For investors who believe that high yield bonds are ripe for a pullback, SJB can be used to help hedge against or to seek to benefit from potential declines.”

The iBoxx $ Liquid High Yield Index has gained 12.6% over the past year, and 7.4% over the past three years on an annualized basis. It currently yields about 8%. To get the positive returns on this index check out the iShares iBoxx $ Liquid High Yield Corporate Bond Fund (HYG).

Inverse ETFs are not buy-and-hold instruments. As always, inverse funds only guarantee the inverse performance on a daily basis. That means if the market falls 10% over a three-month period, but experiences a lot of volatility during that time, you won’t necessarily receive a 10% return. For instance, ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT) seeks to return twice the inverse daily performance, or 200%, of the Barclays Capital 20+ Year U.S. Treasury Index. In 2010, the index rose 9.38%, which means the ETF should have seen a return of negative 18.76%. However, because of volatility, the fund’s actual return was negative 26.32%.

This is ProShares’ fifth inverse bond ETFs. ProShares’ other four inverse bond ETFs are benchmarked to Treasury bonds. These include:

  • UltraShort 20+
  • UltraShort 7-10 Year Treasury (PST)
  • UltraShort TIPS (TPS)
  • Short 20+ Year Treasury (TBF)

These four ETFs have garnered more than $7 billion of assets since launching less than three years ago.