Keeping it Short With Junk Bonds

Investors looking to increase their global fixed income exposure while maintaining exposure to high-yield with lower durations have some exchange traded funds to consider, including the Powershares Global Short Term High Yield Bond Portfolio (NYSEArca: PGHY).

PGHY, which is nearly five years old, follows the DB Global Short Maturity High Yield Bond Index. The ETF “generally will invest at least 80% of its total assets in US and foreign short-term, non-investment grade bonds that comprise the Index, all of which are denominated in US dollars,” according to PowerShares.

PGHY holds 485 bonds, of which 10.69% are classified as sovereign debt. The rest of the fund is allocated to high-yield corporate bonds. Indeed, PGHY offers a higher yield than what is found on many corporate bond ETFs, junk or investment-grade. The ETF has a 30-day SEC yield of 7.09%.

Looking Inside Junk Bonds

The tighter spread between junk and high-quality Treasuries reflects the confidence in credit quality of the bonds, which is often put into question during periods of economic stress as witnessed in the recent bout of volatility. As yields on safer Treasury bonds rise, investors have shifted out of riskier speculative-grade debt and into the relative more attractive safer plays.

Due to their greater risk profile, high-yield bonds have been more correlated with major U.S. equity indices, which have experienced wider oscillations in recent months.

Investors should note PGHY features substantial emerging markets exposure. The U.S. is the ETF’s largest country weight at over 43%, but the U.K. is the only other developed market represented in the fund at just 1.75%. Chinese, Brazilian and Russian bonds combine for over 21% of PGHY’s weight.