Managing Fixed Income in Today’s Environment

By Jim T. Barnes, CFA®, CIPM, Director of Fixed Income, Bryn Mawr Capital Management

Bond yields have remained elevated this year as anticipated rate cuts continue to get pushed out into the future. The combination of strong U.S. economic growth, a healthy labor market, and elevated inflation have contributed to a patient Federal Reserve and a federal funds target range of 5.25%-5.50%, a level reached back in July 2023. As of April 15, 2024, the entire U.S. Treasury yield curve was above 4.0% contributing to a benign environment for income-seeking investors. 

There are different approaches to constructing a bond portfolio given today’s interest rate environment depending on an investor’s risk profile and cash needs.

For the most risk-averse investors and/or those with high liquidity needs, they would likely focus on short bond maturities. Favorably, the short part of the yield curve presents the highest yielding opportunities with yields currently above 5.0% for U.S. Treasury securities maturing over the next six months or so.  Matching up a Treasury security with a short-term liability or rolling over short-term investments due to uncertainty around future cash needs are good approaches within this type of environment that can generate some meaningful income.

There is much chatter and debate about potential rate cuts and the timing of such. Regardless, we believe today’s policy rates have likely reached peak levels for this rate hiking cycle. Although interest rate volatility should be expected, we anticipate U.S. Treasury yields will trend lower during the year.

With this in mind, investors with longer-term horizons can modestly extend out on the yield curve and into intermediate-term maturities. The idea would be to lock in today’s interest rates, and although yields can certainly go higher, they can go lower too. Given the low level of interest rates over the past decade, today’s yields should get investors a little excited.

Joining the two approaches together and investing in both short-term and intermediate-term securities will help balance the risks of both rising and declining interest rates. Using some bond jargon – balancing the reinvestment and price risk. If yields go higher, the shorter-maturity bonds will be well-positioned to take advantage of higher, short-term rates. And, if longer-term yields trend lower, at least some portion of the bond portfolio has locked in today’s current interest rates. 

It’s important to keep in mind that additional yield opportunities exist beyond investing only in U.S. Treasury securities. 

For example, adding investment-grade corporate exposure can provide a boost in yield. Adding credit risk via a diversified mix of corporate issuers is appropriate for less risky investors and those who are comfortable taking on the additional credit risk volatility. With the U.S. economy growing roughly 3.0% last year and expectations for continued positive economic growth this year, company fundamentals look favorable. Economic and firm surprises can certainly occur, so limiting concentration risk to any one issuer/sector is important.

There are many ways to take advantage of today’s interest rates. Short and/or intermediate bond portfolios with varying degrees of credit risk, if any at all, are potential bond strategies for investment portfolios. Important to keep in mind that an investors’ investment approach will be dependent on their own unique needs and objectives to ensure portfolio risk is at an appropriate level. Regardless, given the benign environment for income relative to prior years, fixed income remains an attractive asset class.

About the Author – Jim T. Barnes, CFA®, CIPM, Director of Fixed Income, Bryn Mawr Capital Management

Jim T. Barnes is the Director of Fixed Income for Bryn Mawr Capital Management and a member of the Investment Policy Committee. Jim has significant experience in fixed-income management and product development.  He is a regular author and commentator on economic and financial market matters, and his opinions have been quoted by national and local media. Jim holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation and the Certificate in Investment Performance Measurement™ designation. He is a member and past president of the CFA Society of Philadelphia as well as a member of the CFA Institute. Jim earned a B.S. degree from Lehigh University and an MBA from the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame.

This communication is provided by Bryn Mawr Capital Management (“BMCM” or “Firm”) for informational purposes only. Investing involves the risk of loss and investors should be prepared to bear potential losses. Past performance may not be indicative of future results and may have been impacted by events and economic conditions that will not prevail in the future. No portion of this commentary is to be construed as a solicitation to buy or sell a security or the provision of personalized investment, tax, or legal advice. Certain information contained in this report is derived from sources that BMCM believes to be reliable; however, the Firm does not guarantee the accuracy or timeliness of such information and assumes no liability for any resulting damages.

Bryn Mawr Capital Management, LLC. is an SEC-registered investment adviser and a subsidiary of WSFS Financial Corporation.  Registration as an investment adviser does not imply a certain level of skill or training. 


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