Chart of Week: Advisors Prefer Short-Term High-Quality Bonds

Advisors have choices to face with their fixed income allocation. Should they take on credit risk to be rewarded with a high level of income? What about taking on interest-rate risk and owning longer-duration bonds? Using ETFs, they can get a good combination of these risk-and-reward alternatives that match their priorities.

Heading into the fourth quarter, fixed-income-minded advisors were relatively risk averse according to VettaFi sentiment analysis. During a late September webcast with Federated Hermes, we asked advisors a key question: “Where do you think the best opportunity for fixed income is over the next year?” The results were close, with short-term Treasuries garnering 40% of the results and investment-grade credit nabbing 36%. Far fewer people thought long-term Treasuries (22%) or high yield (12%) were worth the risk.

This contrasts with the industry demand for the iShares 20+Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) in the first nine months of 2023. The long-term Treasury ETF’s $16 billion in net inflows made it easily the most popular fixed income product. Investors were not being rewarded, as TLT was down 10%. Meanwhile, the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (BND) added $13 billion of new money this year. Unfortunately, its total return was down fractionally in 2023 as of the end of September.

See related: “Dave Nadig and Todd Rosenbluth on the Year of Fixed Income

With many tools available, advisors can also choose to both limit their clients’ interest-rate risk and their credit risk. There’s an array of low-cost index-based short-term investment-grade bond ETFs. Thanks to the Fed-hiking program, these funds offer a nice yield.