It has been a nice ride for high-yield bond exchange traded funds. For the three years ending July 23, the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (NYSEArca: HYG) and the SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEArca: JNK) were up 25% and 25.7%, respectively.
Gains from here could be limited as investors are growing anxious over riskier debt after Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen warned about a sooner-than-anticipated rate hike. Add to that, there is mounting evidence that investors are hedging and/or taking profits in high-yield bond ETFs.
“The number of outstanding put options in HYG earlier this month topped the number of outstanding ‘calls’ by a ratio of more than eight to one,” reports Chris Dieterich for the Wall Street Journal. That is highest put/call ratio in HYG in 14 months, according to the Journal.
In the week ending July 23, investors pulled $441.5 million from HYG and $113 million from JNK. JNK is frequently used by short sellers to establish bearish positions on junk bonds because its tracking relative to its underlying index is great than that of HYG.
Short positions in high-yield bond ETFs are on the rise. “The proportion of outstanding ETF shares on loan to short-sellers is up to 14.94%, up from 11.82% a month ago, and 8.35% a year ago,” the Journal reported citing Markit data.
Since the start of July, the two ETFs have bled a combined $1.3 billion. [Getting Cautious With Junk Bond ETFs]