|Corporate Bond ETF Trading Costs Rising|
|December 02, 2011-|
Page 2 of 2
Three out of four iShares ETFs offering diversified exposure to unsecured corporate bonds denominated in euros, US dollars and sterling, including those issued by financial companies, have seen outflows this year, even though the indices they track include only "investment grade" (i.e. non-junk) bonds, as rated by the world's leading credit agencies.
For example, the iShares Markit iBoxx Euro Corporate Bond Fund (LSE: IBCX), Europe's largest ETF of its type, which tracks an index consisting of 20 financial and 20 non-financial bonds, has lost nearly €750 million, or over 20 percent of its assets this year. Since the fund has registered almost flat performance so far this year, this asset change is due almost entirely to client redemptions.
But iShares' Barclays Capital Euro Corporate Bond ex-financials ETF, which, as its name suggests, excludes banking sector and insurance company issuers, has more than tripled in size this year, suggesting that investors' concerns over possible default risk remain selective, and are still primarily confined to financial debt.
There have also been buyers of iShares' Markit iBoxx Euro Covered Bond ETF in 2011, with the fund nearly doubling in size, albeit from low levels. Covered bonds are a form of secured debt issued by banks and are generally considered safer than unsecured senior bonds. This is because the issuer isolates a pool of assets on its balance sheet and earmarks those assets as collateral for the bond, offering investors priority over unsecured creditors in the case of the bank's failure.
(For more on the rising demand for this particular type of ETF, see our feature article from earlier this year, The Covered Bond Craze).
When expressed as a percentage change in shares outstanding (see the chart below), the diverging investor demand for different types of corporate bond exposure in 2011 is made clear.
This week's promise of extra liquidity support from the world's central banks has given investors, including those in corporate bonds, some respite from recent turbulence. It remains to be seen whether the latest bailout will translate into a decline in corporate bond dealing costs towards early 2011 levels, or whether this is merely another episode in markets' ongoing bout of bipolar disorder.
But with the fate of Europe's single currency still in the balance and a heavy refinancing burden for banks looming in 2012, it appears likely that a more discriminating approach to corporate debt amongst ETF investors is here to stay.