Bond ETF Breakdown: High Yield Back in Vogue?

The Federal Reserve just wrapped up another policy meeting, and markets continue to push back their expectations of a first rate cut. As of Wednesday, the federal funds futures market is pricing in 60% odds of a first cut in September. Barring another major pivot in Fed policy, many advisors agree it’s a prudent time to increase bond exposure – and that’s precisely what investors have done, albeit in a rather blunt fashion.

Treasury yields are hovering around their highest levels since the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note has risen 80 basis points this year but will likely start to plateau amid anticipated rate cuts. Meaning, that reinvestment risk is rising and there’s a good chance of capital appreciation over the next few years when cuts finally do kick in.

Tale of Two Bond Markets

Plain-vanilla bond funds are generally seeing the bulk of this year’s inflows. The iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond ETF (AGG) and the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury ETF (VGIT) comfortably took the top spots – taking in $7.9 billion and $5 billion, respectively – followed by total bond market ETFs issued by the same two asset managers.

Topping the flow charts are largely long-duration, high-quality funds predominantly comprised of Treasuries and investment-grade securities across a range of maturities. Markets have been somewhat overzealous in their expectations of policy easing. Stronger growth data coupled with stickier inflation have caused long-duration bonds to cheapen.