Investors who sought exchange-traded funds as a faster way to trade corporate bonds are finding that they can be as expensive to trade as the underlying debt.
As trading in the three-biggest credit ETFs surged to unprecedented levels last month amid the market’s biggest losses since 2008, the funds’ shares dropped as much as 1.1 percentage points more than the net value of the less-traded securities they hold. The two largest high-yield bond ETFs have lost about 6 percent since reaching a five-year high May 8. That’s about 2 percentage points more than the loss for the Bank of America Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Index.
The gap reflects the extra charge investors paid for a speedier exit in a declining market by using ETFs that trade like stocks rather than buying and selling the less-liquid debt. Investors yanked about $1.83 billion of shares from the two-biggest junk ETFs last month, forcing sales of their holdings at a time when demand was evaporating.