High yield has held a magnetic allure for investors since late October of 2023. Driven by the Federal Reserve’s benign stance and buoyant economic prospects, the high-yield sector has witnessed a frenzy of activity. While high yield can be as thrilling as breaking an arm and a leg, exercising caution is invariably rewarding in the long term. Amid the current euphoria, there exists a beacon of hope: iShares iBonds 2025 Term High Yield and Income ETF (BATS:IBHE) from the Blackrock family. Let’s delve into this intriguing investment opportunity.
IBHE is a term fund set to terminate at the end of 2025, offering a distinctive approach to investing in high yield. Unlike other junk bond ETFs that roll over their bonds to maintain a consistent weighted average maturity, IBHE is designed to expire at the stipulated time. Aligned with the Bloomberg 2025 Term High Yield and Income Index, the fund follows a selective approach, opting for representative sampling to compose about 80% of its portfolio from the index.
The fund rebalances on the last day of each month, leading up to its termination in June 2025, at which point it swiftly transitions away from high-yield bonds and reinvests the proceeds in cash equivalents, likely Treasury bills, or the most optimal high-yielding safe choice at the time.
Despite being a “high-yield” bond fund, IBHE does not feature ultra-quality holdings. Primarily comprising securities rated within two rungs of the investment grade, the fund is heavily exposed to consumer cyclicals, followed by the energy and non-cyclical sectors.
One of the fund’s key attractions is its ability to assume credit risk without incurring additional duration risk. With most holdings maturing between 1 and 2 years, IBHE effectively mitigates duration risk, aligning with its investment mandate.
The fund’s weighted average maturity stands at 1.28 years, boasting an option-adjusted spread of 251.57 basis points and an average yield to maturity of 7.48%.
The option-adjusted spread represents the spread between the average yield of the bonds and the equivalent Treasury rate, adjusted for potential early bond calls. This distinctive feature sets IBHE apart, offering investors an unparalleled opportunity.
Furthermore, the fund’s 4.82% yield presents a compelling opportunity, standing approximately 264 basis points away from the yield to maturity of its holdings. While IBHE’s initiative is commendable, investors should carefully consider the nuanced dynamics at play.
Outlook & Verdict
With a promising yield to maturity of 7.48%, investors can anticipate favorable returns, albeit subject to fees and market conditions. The fund’s last distribution reflected an annualized yield of about 7.48%, indicating stability in distributions. However, given the prevailing market sentiments, a tempered approach may be prudent.
While IBHE presents an enticing investment proposition, it warrants a cautious evaluation. Despite its merit, the current market dynamics and projected rate cuts necessitate a prudent stance. As such, while IBHE offers a favorable conduit for assuming credit risk without duration risk, exercising restraint is paramount. Given the intricate interplay of market forces, IBHE merits a hold rating, with potential for reconsideration in a market downturn.
Please note that this is not financial advice. It may seem like it, sound like it, but surprisingly, it is not. Investors are expected to do their own due diligence and consult with a professional who knows their objectives and constraints.