Bond ETFs: The New Black

After being punished by soaring Treasury yields in 2013, some bond exchange traded funds are the toast of the town in 2014.

Last month, investors pulled nearly $10 billion from exchange traded products after ETF inflows reached a record last year, topping $200 billion for the second consecutive year. Equity-based ETFs were the culprits, shedding $10 billion “and diverged from the strong starts seen in the past two years. Investors continued to turn to ETPs to efficiently execute their market views during a volatile month for stocks,” according to BlackRock. [ETFs Bleed $10 Billion in January]

Things have not been much better this month. “ETFs – which have been reliably winning share over MFs since the Financial Crisis – are still in the red for 2014-to-date, at ($8.3) billion of outflows. Dig a little deeper into the ETF flows, and the mysteries compound. U.S. equity ETFs are down $24.7 billion in assets from redemptions, with three products accounting for essentially the entire ETF exodus from domestic stock funds,” said Nicholas Colas, chief market strategist at ConvergEx Group, a global brokerage company based in New York, in a note out on Feb. 19.

Bond ETFs have bucked the trend of departures from equity-based funds. U.S. bond ETFs have raked in $16 billion this month as of Feb. 21, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing TrimTabs Investment Research. That puts on bond ETFs for the biggest monthly gain since the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEArca: LQD) debuted in 2002 and is nearly double the previous record monthly inflow of $8.4 billion in May 2012, the Journal reported.

Short-duration bond ETFs with less sensitivity to rising interest rates have been a favored destination for fixed income investors this year. Three of the top 10 ETFs in terms of year-to-date inflows, including the top two, are funds holding bonds with maturities of seven years of less. The iShares 1-3 Year Credit Bond ETF (NYSEArca: CSJ) is one of those funds.  CSJ, which S&P Capital IQ rates overweight, has brought in almost $1.3 billion this year, bringing its assets under management total to $13.2 billion. [Sifting Through Short Duration Bond ETFs]

High-yield bond ETFs have also been on the receiving end of robust inflows. The PIMCO 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond Index (NYSEArca: HYS) and the actively managed AdvisorShares Peritus High Yield ETF (NYSEArca: HYLD) have combined 2014 inflows of $971 million as of Feb. 21. [Plenty of Cash Flowing to Junk Bond ETFs]

“With a weekly combined average inflow of $240 million for high-grade and high-yield funds, total inflows for 2014 are now in excess of $1.4 billion, driven by a 9.8% year-on-year increase in money going into high-yield ETFs, with 3.3% finding its way into investment grade ETFs,” Risk.com reports, citing Bank of America Merrill Lynch data.

PIMCO 0-5 Year High Yield Corporate Bond ETF

ETF Trends editorial team contributed to this post. Tom Lydon’s clients own shares of LQD.

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