Investors traditionally seek a fixed-income portfolio that provides a meaningful yield with minimal volatility. However, recent market conditions have made this combination a challenging feat, not due to the yield itself but because of heightened volatility.

The Volatility Conundrum

The MOVE Index, a gauge of interest-rate volatility, has surged to levels not seen since the 2008-09 financial crisis. This increased volatility is evident in the iShares Core U.S. Aggregate Bond exchange-traded fund (ticker: AGG), which experienced significant fluctuations in recent months, resulting in a 2% decline year to date.

A Potential Solution: BlackRock Flexible Income ETF

Enter the BlackRock Flexible Income ETF (BINC), managed by Rick Rieder, a 36-year bond veteran and BlackRock’s chief investment officer of global fixed income. Since its launch in May, BINC has offered a compelling alternative by providing high yields with considerably less volatility compared to the benchmark index.

Achieving Success Through Strategy

Rieder attributes the success of BINC to a strategic approach that focuses on identifying asset classes with attractive yields and value propositions. While delving into slightly riskier areas, the portfolio maintains an average investment-grade rating. Rigorous stress testing, scenario analysis, and correlation assessments play a crucial role in shaping the portfolio.

A Transparent View of Performance

Despite the complexities involved, the ETF's transparent structure allows investors to closely monitor the fund's holdings and strategy on its website. This visibility provides clarity on how Rieder navigates the market landscape to deliver results.

In a market environment marked by heightened volatility, the BlackRock Flexible Income ETF stands out as a compelling option for investors seeking high yields with minimized risk.

Diversified Portfolio Strategy

The portfolio manager has strategically allocated assets within the investment-grade bonds market, focusing on yields in the mid-5% range. With 22% of assets in corporate bonds, split evenly between European and U.S. names, the emphasis on European bonds is notable for the yield boost acquired from currency translation. Anticipating a faster interest rate reduction by the European Central Bank than the Federal Reserve, he foresees a shift in bond prices correlating with these adjustments.

High Yield Bonds

A significant portion of the portfolio comprises high-yield bonds, including U.S. junk bonds at 24% and European equivalents at 14%. Positive outlooks on companies issuing high-yield debt are attributed to prior refinancing at lower rates, decreasing the necessity for additional debt under current market conditions.

Emerging Market Debt

Approximately 6% of the portfolio is allocated to emerging market debt, emphasizing quality and yields in the high-6% range across regions like Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia, and South Africa. Despite acknowledging the potential for successes within emerging markets, the manager prioritizes developed markets for their stable returns amidst increased volatility.

Securitized Products

Securitized products make up 29% of the portfolio, offering yields alongside diversification benefits according to Rieder. Examples such as collateralized loan obligations and commercial mortgage-backed securities are gaining prominence within the portfolio due to widened spreads.

Mitigating Volatility

By limiting interest-rate risks through a portfolio with an effective maturity of five years, BINC maintains stability amidst market fluctuations. Rieder emphasizes the advantage of exploiting current yield curve conditions to secure favorable returns without excessive exposure to volatility.

In conclusion, achieving a high yield of 6.5% to 7% in a stable manner underlines the prudent risk management strategy employed by BINC. Prioritizing stability over increased risk-taking for marginal yield improvements underscores the manager's commitment to a well-balanced portfolio.

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