Monday, September 19, 2011

End Date Bond ETF's followup -- More options on the menu

More than a year ago I highlighted a new twist on bond etfs called the end date bond etf.  Since then Ishare's end date muni etfs have grown to manage over 185 million in total through the 2012-2017 maturity spectrum.  Not bad.

Guggenheim also rolled out both a corporate bond and high yield end date etf series, providing a wider menu of risk. Guggenheim's corp etf's run from 2011 to 2017 while the high yield field provides a 2012 to 2015 maturity spectrum.   While the high yield etf's have gathered 144 million, the corporate funds have pulled in over 430 million with one fund, the 2013 Corporates (symbol BCSD) about to break 100 million.

Hopefully someone will introduce an end date bond etf series on US Treasuries and US Tips (Inflation protected) to round out the risk profiles available. (hint hint, nudge nudge)

A few caveats are needed regarding buying and selling these etfs
  • They are still illiquid and the price can vary dramatically from the NAV of the underlying assets.  Check the fund description page and make sure you are not overpaying.
  • Diversification does not eliminate risk.  The 2017 Guggenheim Corp fund contains a large slug of financial bonds. If we have another credit event like 2008 due to a European sovereign default you could see losses on these corporate bonds (and possibly junk bonds and muni bonds)  The price the market will give you will also fluctuate.
  • Check when the bond etf actually 'matures'. Each fund complex has their own procedures and nuances as to when the funds will be distributed to shareholders.
While there are disadvantages to these (currently) illiquid etfs I find their introduction into the investing universe promising. Building a bond ladder will be much easier and cheaper with greater liquidity for smaller dollar amounts versus finding, researching and purchasing individual bonds.

End date etfs will also allow one to take advantage of rolldown in the bond market. With short rates at zero, as the maturity date approaches for a bond the yield will drop (setting credit risk aside) and thus the price rises and yield drops. Econompic explains the dynamics in greater detail.

Ishares highlights a few of these advantages in a video:

Additional reading:
Seeking Alpha guide to end date etfs
Ishares muni bond end date etf
Guggenheim menu of corp and junk end date etfs - (scroll down to bottom)

Disclsosure: The author does not own any end date etf's but is examining the muni bond etfs for purchase shortly.

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