Tag Archives: John Spence

Surge in ETF Trading Foretells Volatile Summer

usatodaylogo  Courtesy of John Spence

A surge in exchange traded fund trading this week signals that investors should buckle up for a volatile summer.

ETF trading soared to about 40% of overall volume on Thursday, one day after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the Fed may soon begin tapering its purchases of $85 billion a month of Treasury bonds and mortgages. The Dow Jones industrial average plunged 354 points.

“My ETF-monitoring screens were lit up like a Christmas tree,” said Chris Hempstead, director of ETF execution at WallachBeth Capital, in a daily update Thursday. “Almost every ETF on my radar was trading at multiples of a normal day’s volume.”

He said it’s not uncommon to see a few ETFs have trading volume that high on a given day. But Thursday’s action “was something I have never seen before,” he said.

Volume in an unprecedented number of ETFs topped $1 billion for the session, he added.

The largest ETF, SPDR S&P 500, traded about 300 million shares, its highest one-day volume in more than a year.

Trading also surged in volatility-linked ETFs, such as iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures ETN, which some traders use as short-term hedges, or to speculate on stock sell-offs. Continue reading

ETFtrends: Are High-Yield Bond ETFs Overvalued After Big Run?

etftrends logo imagesCourtesy of John Spence

Junk bond ETFs have enjoyed four solid years of returns while investors’ hunger for income-producing assets has pushed the sector’s yields down near record-low levels. As 2013 gets underway, some investors are again wondering if high-yield corporate debt is overvalued after such a strong run.

The only problem is that investors don’t have too many other options when it comes to finding yield with the Federal Reserve committed to keeping rates low for a couple more years.

“With record fund inflows in 2012, investors clearly have an appetite for high-yield bond funds,” says Morningstar analyst Timothy Strauts. “The strong investor demand lowered credit spreads, and the high-yield category returned over 14% last year. While yields have been falling, high yield is the only bond category with a 12-month yield still above 5%.”

SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond (NYSEArca: JNK) and iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond (NYSEArca: HYG) are the largest ETFs that invest in high-yield corporate debt. The funds were big sellers in 2012 and allow investors to buy a basket of high-yield bonds with one trade and low fees.

The sector’s rally has pushed the average yield on speculative grade bonds below 6% for the first time ever. [Junk ETFs Highest Since 2008]

Fed-fueled bubble?

“One of the aims of the Federal Reserve interest rate policy is to increase risk-taking across the capital markets. High yield is one of the main beneficiaries of the Fed’s current policy. With yields of investment-grade securities below 3%, investors have been forced to look elsewhere for income. Many institutional investors that in the past only chose investment-grade bonds have been buying high yield to meet their return targets,” says Strauts at Morningstar. Continue reading