As stocks continue to be pounded, traders are moving billions into high-grade, short-term bonds, in spite of their sub-par performance in a rising interest rate environment, Bloomberg reports.
Year-to-date, global investment-grade credit funds have attracted $70 billion, a record for the category at the start of a year, according to EPFR Global data going back to 2017.
As Charlie McElligott, cross-asset macro strategist at Nomura Securities International, explains the lure, “Why would you subject yourself to this very data-dependent, binary, weekly equity environment with rates repricing, when you can sleep at night sitting in Treasury bills or short-duration investment-grade credit?”
Even die-hard equity fund managers have moved 25% to 50% of their portfolios into blue-chip, short-term bonds, McElligott says.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled 575 points Tuesday on Fed Chair Powell’s hawkish remarks about interest rates going higher, faster. Since equities’ peak in early February, stocks have declined 4.6%, and investors have yanked $10.6 billion out of U.S. equity funds in the past four weeks.
“In the near term, cash and investment-grade credit are the best way to be positioned — although it will not be stellar performance,” agrees Thomas Hempell, head of macro and market research at Generali Investments.
One downside to moving into credit is that it could expose investors to losses as interest rates climb. True to form, even high-quality bonds have returned less than 1% year-to-date, according to Bloomberg data.
Another disadvantage to the credit markets is the movement of so much money into high-quality bonds has caused spreads to narrow to very tight levels, with the yield difference between a three-month Treasury and the investment-grade index a mere 70 basis points.
“It’s very much a short-term, tactical hiding spot [for equity market] tourists,” McElligott says.
As some professional traders call the movement to credit and the growing pressure on the bond market, it’s the least-bad option. Even the value of cash, they say, is being eroded.
More adventurous investors are venturing into speculative-grade debt for better yield. Gershon Distenfeld, co-head of fixed income at AllianceBernstein, believes this is a trend that could take hold for the foreseeable future.
“People are seeing that you can probably get the same kinds of returns with a lot less risk by being in the same parts of the fixed income market, rather than equity markets,” Distenfeld says.
© 2024 Newsmax Finance. All rights reserved.