Bond exchange traded funds (ETFs) are a great alternative to a simple bond investment, and the number of choices in bond-related funds is endless. Treasury ETFs have become a favorite safe-haven as investors look to protect their assets, so much so that it’s been pushing already paltry yields down to almost nothing. Despite that, don’t be so quick to dismiss an allocation to Treasuries for your clients.
Treasuries have been on a roller coaster ride this year. In the first quarter, belief in a sustainable economic recovery led to more equity investments and fueled fears of inflation, resulting in the 10-year note’s yield breaking above 4% for the first time since October 2008.
By late April, though, that momentum was shattered in the wake of the eurozone fiscal fallout and cautious investors poured more money into U.S. government debt, pushing yields to lows not seen since April 2009. The argument for owning Treasury bonds is that the economic recovery may be slow going at best. But even in that kind of an environment, the protection offered may be short-lived.
Fiscal tightening makes it more likely that the Federal Reserve and the European Central Bank, among others, will keep short-term interest rates near rock bottom for a while. This is presenting a fertile environment for investors and providers to offer and seek out Treasury bond funds. Long-term bonds rose quickly after bond traders were betting on long-date issues doing better than short-term bonds in a low-growth and low-inflation environment.
Still, inflation is crawling at a annualized rate of about 1%, consumers aren’t spending as much as they used to and the housing market is still flat, at best. All of this means that, at least in the short-term, Treasury bond ETFs may remain an appealing spot for investors to safely park their cash despite those low yields.