International Spice With a Treasury ETF
August 12th at 8:00am by Todd Shriber
More often than not when investors think of exchange traded funds that hold Treasury bonds, their focus is on those funds that hold U.S. Treasuries.
That is understandable. After all, the home country bias phenomenon is well-documented and U.S. Treasury ETFs collectively hold tens of billions in assets. However, those traits do not diminish the allure of international Treasury offerings such as the SPDR Barclays International Treasury Bond ETF (NYSEArca: BWX).
BWX, which is nearly seven years old, has turned in a solid showing this year with a 5% gain. With a rate hike or two from the Federal Reserve believed to be inevitable, BWX’s utility as a core position for investors looking for global bond exposure increases. [Hedging U.S. Rate Risk With International Bond ETFs
Another way to look at BWX’s potential is that at a time when many market observers are betting on a Fed rate hike as soon as the first quarter of 2015, other global central banks remain accommodative.
“The drop in international sovereign yields has been caused by accommodative policies by central banks, such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan,” said State Street Global Advisors Vice President and Head of Research Dave Mazza in an email exchange with ETF Trends. “In fact, sovereign yields have fallen in 21 of the 24 currencies represented in the Barclays Global Treasury Ex-US Capped Index. Similarly, falling sovereign credit spreads relative to US treasuries have contributed to performance.”
Although much attention has been paid to the strength of the U.S. dollar, the greenback has suffered against the yen due to safe-haven demand for the Japanese currency. Additionally, the British pound and Australian dollar have stacked up favorably against the U.S. dollar this year. Japan, the U.K. and Australia combine for 34.3% of BWX’s country weight, according to State Street data.
“Weakness in the US dollar relative to major currencies has also made a positive contribution to BWX returns. A weak US dollar relative to the Japanese Yen, British Pound and the Australian dollar has been the primary driver of positive FX return. A weak US dollar increases the total return on investment denominated in foreign currencies,” added Mazza.
Although the U.K. is BWX’s second-largest country weight, that is not a thorny issue for the ETF even as it is widely expected the Bank of England will soon enter a tightening cycle. The U.K. represents just 7.60% of BWX’s weight, well below the 23.1% the ETF devotes to Japan, a country that is unlikely to raise rates anytime in the near future. [Pound ETFs Push Higher]