Bank Loan ETFs are an Ideal Way to Deal With Rising Rates

As market participants anticipate multiple interest rate hikes by the Federal Reserve this year, fixed-income investors are shifting into senior secured floating-rate bank loans and related exchange traded funds to hedge against rising rate risks.

A rising interest rate would negatively affect bond funds as newer debt securities would come with a higher rate, making older bonds with lower yields less attractive. Consequently, bond investors may turn to senior loans as a way to mitigate the rate risks but still be able to generate attractive yields. The PowerShares Senior Loan Portfolio (NYSEArca: BKLN) is the largest  ETF offering exposure to the asset class.

A senior loan is a private loan taken from an underwriting bank or a syndicate of lenders. The loans are secured in that they are backed by the borrowers’ assets, which act as collateral. If the borrower defaults, lenders have a senior claim on the defaulters’ assets. Moreover, senior secured floating-rate loans have, as their name suggests, a floating interest rate component, which fluctuates with market rates.

“Bank loans are another good option now. They are generally made to below-investment-grade companies, so there is plenty of credit risk. But their rates float, which means they adjust—as interest rates rise, so will those on these loans,” reports Reshma Kapadia for Barron’s.