If it seems to you that a high proportion of new ETFs launched recently are bond funds, then you are not mistaken. Of the 15 new exchange traded products introduced so far in 2009, seven of them have been bond ETFs.
SPDR Barclays Capital Intermediate Term Credit Bond ETF (ITR) began trading yesterday (Feb. 11, 2009). This latest offering from State Street Global Advisors is based on the Barclays Capital U.S. Intermediate Credit Index, which measures the performance of the 1-10 year U.S. investment grade bond market.
The index, which had its inception in 1973, currently consists of more than 2500 holdings that are primarily investment grade corporate debt. It also allows sovereign, supranational, local authority, and non-U.S. agency bonds that are dollar denominated. The current sector breakdown is 37.4% industrials, 36.2% financials, 7.6% utilities, 6.5% agencies, 6.3% supranational, 3.9% sovereign, and 2.1% local authorities.
The ETF’s expense ratio is a low 0.15% and the index’s yield at the end of the year stood at 6.7%. This is a very attractive yield for the current market environment as long as defaults do not hamper total return.
ITR appears to be a direct competitor to iShares Barclays Intermediate Credit Bond Fund (CIU), as both claim to be tracking the same Barclays Capital U.S. Intermediate Credit Index. However, from there, the similarities start to become rather murky. For example, the index’s performance in 2008 was +4.2% according to the ITR website, but it was -2.7% according to the CIU website. I will leave it to SSgA and Barclays to figure out which website is right and which one requires correction.