Six Different Ways You Could Lose Money in Bond Funds
Do You Use Bond Funds For Income? Do You Really Think They’re Safe?
Do I really want to read about losing money? YES! This article is how to potentially avoid losing money, especially if you are approaching retirement or you are already retired.
The problem is most investors think “I’m ok” or “If interest rates go up it won’t really affect me, so I’m ok”.
Well, guess what, do you even remember the #FinancialCrisis of 2008?
Bond Funds and Income Funds
What is a bond fund?
“Bond funds” and “income funds” are terms used to describe a type of investment company (mutual fund, closed-end fund or unit investment trust (UIT)) that invests primarily in bonds or other types of debt securities. Depending on its investment objectives and policies, a bond fund may concentrate its investments in a particular type of bond or debt security—such as government bonds, municipal bonds, corporate bonds, convertible bonds, mortgage-backed securities, zero-coupon bonds—or a mixture of types. The securities that bond funds hold will vary in terms of risk, return, duration, volatility and other features.*
Wait, can I even lose money in bond funds?
Yes. A common misconception among some investors is that bonds and bond funds have little or no risk. Like any investment, bond funds are subject to a number of investment risks including credit risk, interest rate risk, and prepayment risk. A bond fund’s prospectus should disclose these and any other risks. Before investing in a bond fund, you should carefully read all the fund’s available information, including its prospectus and most recent shareholder report.*
Ways You Could Lose Money in Bond Funds
#1 Credit Risk
According to the BusinessDictionary.com, the probability of loss from a debtor’s default. In banking, credit risk is a major factor in determination of interest rate on a loan: longer the term of loan, usually higher the interest rate. Also called credit exposure. AKA, the issuers of the bonds owned by a fund may default. This risk may be minimal for funds that invest in U.S. Government bonds.
#2 Interest Rate Risk
Remember the cardinal rule of bonds: When interest rates fall, bond prices rise, and when interest rates rise, bond prices fall. Interest rate risk is the risk that changes in interest rates (in the U.S. or other world markets) may reduce (or increase) the market value of a bond you hold. Interest rate risk—also referred to as market risk—increases the longer you hold a bond.
Let’s look at the risks inherent in rising interest rates.
Say you bought a 10-year, $1,000 bond today at a coupon rate of 4 percent, and interest rates rise to 6 percent.
If you need to sell your 4 percent bond prior to maturity you must compete with newer bonds carrying higher coupon rates. These higher coupon rate bonds decrease the appetite for older bonds that pay lower interest. This decreased demand depresses the price of older bonds in the secondary market, which would translate into you receiving a lower price for your bond if you need to sell it. In fact, you may have to sell your bond for less than you paid for it. This is why interest rate risk is also referred to as market risk.
Rising interest rates also make new bonds more attractive (because they earn a higher coupon rate). This results in what’s known as opportunity risk—the risk that a better opportunity will come around that you may be unable to act upon. The longer the term of your bond, the greater the chance that a more attractive investment opportunity will become available, or that any number of other factors may occur that negatively impact your investment. This also is referred to as holding-period risk—the risk that not only a better opportunity might be missed, but that something may happen during the time you hold a bond to negatively affect your investment.
Bond fund managers face the same risks as individual bondholders. When interest rates rise—especially when they go up sharply in a short period of time—the value of the fund’s existing bonds drops, which can put a drag on overall fund performance.**
Another way to think about it is interest rate risk is the risk that the market value of the bonds owned by a fund will fluctuate as interest rates go up and down. For example, when interest rates go up, the market value of bonds owned by a fund generally will go down. Nearly all bond funds are subject to this type of risk, but funds holding bonds with longer maturities are more subject to this risk than funds holding bonds with shorter maturities. Because of this type of risk, you can lose money in a bond fund, including those that invest only in insured bonds or U.S. Government bonds.*
#3 Lack of Liquidity
Liquidity risk is the risk that you will not be easily able to find a buyer for a bond you need to sell. A sign of liquidity, or lack of it, is the general level of trading activity: A bond that is traded frequently in a given trading day is considerably more liquid than one which only shows trading activity a few times a week.**
So-called safe investments faced a lack of liquidity in 2008. It’s no secret the SEC has been and is concerned about bond and mutual fund liquidity.
Jake Zamansky writes on SeekingAlpha.com “Right now, the issue on the minds of many in the market is liquidity, or simply the ability for a seller of a stock or bond to find a buyer. Without liquidity, markets plummet, as they did in late 2008 and early 2009. Liquidity is all important to investors. It’s oxygen to markets.”
What a great comment.
I also wanted to share with you a quote by Nouriel Roubini aka Dr. Doom.
“This combination of macro liquidity and market illiquidity is a time bomb,” Roubini contends. “So far, it has led only to volatile flash crashes and sudden changes in bond yields and stock prices. But, over time, the longer that central banks create liquidity to suppress short-run volatility, the more they will feed price bubbles in equity, bond, and other asset markets. As more investors pile into overvalued, increasingly illiquid assets—such as bonds—the risk of a long-term crash increases.”
These are just 2 areas of concern when dealing with bond funds.
#4 Prepayment Risk
Prepayment risk is the risk that the issuers of the bonds owned by a fund will prepay them at a time when interest rates have declined. Because interest rates have declined, the fund may have to reinvest the proceeds in bonds with lower interest rates, which can reduce the fund’s return. (Not all bonds, however, can be prepaid.)*
#5 Reinvestment Risk
According to InvestingInBonds.com, Reinvestment Risk When interest rates are declining, investors have to reinvest their interest income and any return of principal, whether scheduled or unscheduled, at lower prevailing rates.
In a certain type of bond like a callable bond, you might not receive the bond’s original coupon rate for the entire term of the bond, and it might be difficult or impossible to find an equivalent investment paying rates as high as the original rate. This is known as reinvestment risk. Additionally, once the call date has been reached, the stream of a callable bond’s interest payments is uncertain, and any appreciation in the market value of the bond may not rise above the call price.**
#6 You CAN Lose Money in Ultra-Short Bond Funds
Ultra-short bond funds are mutual funds that generally invest in fixed income securities with extremely short maturities, or time periods in which they become due for payment. Like other bond funds, ultra-short bond funds may invest in a wide range of securities, including corporate debt, government securities, mortgage-backed securities and other asset-backed securities.
Some investors don’t realize that there are material differences between ultra-short bond funds and other investments with relatively low risks, such as money market funds and certificates of deposit. Specifically, ultra-short bond funds tend to have higher risks than money market funds and certificates of deposit (CDs).*
Understanding bond risk is extremely important because you face the risk that you might lose money.
Rosie the Robot, Amazon, and the Future of RAAI
Written by: Travis Briggs, CEO at ROBO Global US
It’s tough to find a kid out there who hasn’t dreamed about robots. Long before artificial intelligence existed in the real world, the idea of a non-human entity that could act and think like a human has been rooted in our imaginations. According to Greek legends, Cadmus turned dragon teeth into soldiers, Hephaestus fabricated tables that could “walk” on their own three legs, and Talos, perhaps the original “Tin Man,” defended Crete. Of course, in our own times, modern storytellers have added hundreds of new examples to the mix. Many of us grew up watching Rosie the Robot on The Jetsons. As we got older, the stories got more sophisticated. “Hal” in 2001: A Space Odyssey was soon followed by R2-D2 and C-3PO in the original Star Wars trilogy. RoboCop, Interstellar, and Ex Machina are just a few of the recent additions to the list.
Maybe it’s because these stories are such a part of our culture that few people realize just how far robotics has advanced today—and that artificial intelligence is anything but a futuristic fantasy. Ask anyone outside the industry how modern-day robots and artificial intelligence (AI) are used in the real world, and the answers are usually pretty generic. Surgical robots. Self-driving cars. Amazon’s Alexa. What remains a mystery to most is the immense and fast-growing role the combination of robotics automation and artificial intelligence, or RAAI (pronounced “ray”), plays in nearly every aspect of our everyday lives.
Today, shopping online is something most of us take for granted, and yet eCommerce is still in its relative infancy. Despite double-digit growth in the past four years, only 8% of total retail spending is currently done online. That number is growing every day. Business headlines in July announced that Amazon was on a hiring spree to add another 50K fulfillment employees to its already massive workforce. While that certainly reflects the shift from brick-and-mortar to web-based retail, it doesn’t even begin to tell the story of what this growth means for the technology and application firms that deliver the RAAI tools required to support the momentum of eCommerce. In 2017, only 5% of the warehouses that fuel eCommerce are even partially automated. This means that to keep up with demand, the application of RAAI will have to accelerate—and fast. In fact, RAAI is a key driver of success for top e-retailers like Amazon, Apple, and Wal-Mart as they strive to meet the explosion in online sales.
From an investor’s perspective, this fast-growing demand for robotics, automation and artificial intelligence is a promising opportunity—especially in logistics automation that includes the tools and technologies that drive efficiencies across complex retail supply chains. Considering the fact that four of the top ten supply chain automation players were acquired in the past three years, it’s clear that the industry is transforming rapidly. Amazon’s introduction of Prime delivery (which itself requires incredibly sophisticated logistics operations) was only made possible by its 2012 acquisition of Kiva Systems, the pioneer of autonomous mobile robots for warehouses and supply chains. Amazon recently upped the ante yet again with its recent acquisition of Whole Foods Market, which not only adds 450 warehouses to its immense logistics network, but is also expected to be a game-changer for the online grocery retail industry.
Clearly Amazon isn’t the only major driver of innovation in logistics automation. It’s just the largest, at least for the moment. It’s no wonder that many RAAI companies have outperformed the S&P500 in the past three years. And while some investors have worried that the RAAI movement is at risk of creating its own tech bubble, the growth of eCommerce is showing no signs of reaching a peak. In fact, if the online retail industry comes even close to achieving the growth predicted—of doubling to an amazing $4 trillion by 2020—it’s likely that logistics automation is still in the early stages of adoption. For best-of-breed players in every area of logistics automation, from equipment, software, and services to supply chain automation technology providers, the potential for growth is tremendous.
How can investors take advantage of the growth in robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence?
One simple way to track the performance of these markets is through the ROBO Global Robotics & Automation Index. The logistics subsector currently accounts for around 9% of the index and is the best performing subsector since its inception. The index includes leading players in every area of RAAI, including material handling systems, automated storage and retrieval systems, enterprise asset intelligence, and supply chain management software across a wide range of geographies and market capitalizations. Our index is research based and we apply quality filters to identify the best high growth companies that enable this infrastructure and technology that is driving the revolution in the retail and distribution world.
When I was a kid, I may have dreamed of having a Rosie the Robot of my own to help do my chores, but I certainly had no idea how her 21st century successors would revolutionize how we shop, where we shop, and even how we receive what we buy - often via delivery to our doorstep on the very same day. Of course, the use of RAAI is by no means limited to eCommerce. It’s driving transformative change in nearly every industry. But when it comes to enabling the logistics automation required to support a level of growth rarely seen in any industry, RAAI has a lot of legs to stand on—even if those “legs” are anything but human.
To learn more, download A Look Into Logistics Automation, our July 2017 whitepaper on the evolution and opportunity of logistics automation.
The ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation Index and the ROBO Global® Robotics and Automation UCITS Index (the “Indices”) are the property of ROBO who have contracted with Solactive AG to calculate and maintain the Indices. Past performance of an index is not a guarantee of future results. It is not intended that anything stated above should be construed as an offer or invitation to buy or sell any investment in any Investment Fund or other investment vehicle referred to in this website, or for potential investors to engage in any investment activity.
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