Should Nervous Investors Be Looking to High-Yield ETFs Now?

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Even after a more than 10-year bull market and with stock markets still not too far off all-time highs, there is plenty for investors to worry about: increased volatility, disappointing economic numbers, the effects of the trade war with China, and rhetoric from politicians even though the election is over a year away.

Exchange-traded funds are often seen as a way to diversify and to moderate the risks of investing directly into stocks during times of uncertainty. Yet, a quick look at some of the most popular high-yield ETFs doesn’t seem that encouraging on the surface. All seven of the following ETFs trade more than 2 million shares on an average day, have yields of at least 5% and are underperforming the S&P 500 for the year to date. The index is more than 14% higher than at the beginning of the year, but the Dow Jones industrial average is up more than 10%.

Invesco Preferred ETF (NYSEARCA: PGX): The investment seeks to track the investment results of the ICE BofAML Core Plus Fixed Rate Preferred Securities Index, which is a market capitalization-weighted index designed to reflect the total return performance of the fixed-rate U.S. dollar-denominated preferred securities market.

The non-diversified fund comes with a yield near 5.4%. Top holdings include Bank of America and JPMorgan preferred shares, and the ETF is up more than 10% year to date to close most recently at $14.94 a share.

iShares J.P. Morgan USD Emerging Markets Bond ETF (NASDAQ: EMB): This investment seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the J.P. Morgan EMBI Global Core Index, which is composed of U.S. dollar-denominated, emerging market bonds and tracks the total return of actively traded external debt instruments in emerging market countries.

The fund comes with a yield near 5.5%. Top holdings include bonds from Uruguay, the Russian Federation and Peru. Shares are up about 10% year to date and closed Tuesday at $ 114.25 apiece.

iShares US Preferred Stock ETF (NASDAQ: PFF): This investment seeks to track the investment results of the S&P U.S. Preferred Stock Index, which measures the performance of a select group of preferred stocks listed on the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ Global Select Market and other exchanges.

Top holdings include Becton, Dickinson and GMAC Capital Trust I, while the yield is near 5.6%. Its shares are over 9% higher year to date. The ETF’s most recent close was at $37.37 a share.

SPDR Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEARCA: JNK): The investment seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Bloomberg Barclays High Yield Very Liquid Index, which is designed to measure the performance of publicly issued U.S. dollar denominated high-yield corporate bonds with above-average liquidity.

The non-diversified fund comes with a yield of around 5.6%. Sprint and TransDigm are among its top holdings. Shares are up more than 7% year to date, and they closed at $108.55 on Tuesday.

iShares iBoxx U.S. Dollar High Yield Corp Bond ETF (NYSEARCA: HYG): The investment seeks to track the investment results of the Markit iBoxx USD Liquid High-Yield Index, which is a rules-based index consisting of liquid, U.S. dollar-denominated, high-yield corporate bonds for sale in the United States.

The yield here is about 5.3%, and Sprint and TransDigm are also among its top holdings. Shares were last seen trading at $86.94, which is 7% or so higher than at the beginning of the year.

SPDR Bloomberg Barclays Short Term High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEARCA: SJNK): This investment seeks to provide investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. High-Yield 350mn Cash Pay 0-5 Year 2% Capped Index, which is designed to measure the performance of short-term publicly issued U.S. dollar-denominated high-yield corporate bonds.

The non-diversified fund sports a yield of about 5.6% and includes Community Health Systems, Sprint and Tenet Healthcare among its top holdings. Shares are up less than 4% year to date and closed most recently at $27.02.

Alerian MLP ETF (NYSEARCA: AMLP): This investment seeks investment results that correspond generally to the price and yield performance of the Alerian MLP Infrastructure Index, which is comprised of energy infrastructure master limited partnerships that earn a majority of their cash flow from the transportation, storage and processing of energy commodities.

The non-diversified fund comes with a yield near 8.0%. Top holdings include Enterprise Products Partners and Magellan Midstream Partners. Shares closed Tuesday at $8.75 apiece, about the same level at which they were changing hands at the beginning of the year.

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