High-yield bonds can be a big help for clients looking to diversify their portfolios. These speculative-grade, or "junk bond," investments behave more like equities. Yet as fixed-income they enjoy a higher spot on an issuer's capital structure and, consequently, a level of safety that stocks don't offer.
Of course, many advisors are concerned that investors consider them as safe as other fixed-income securities while they can be far more volatile than Treasuries and in fact, incur substantial losses.
High-yield defies broad description because it covers a wide range of industries and various levels of risk (BB is quite different than CCC). But as a market, high-yield returned about 2.4% overall in 2014, according to the BofA Merrill Lynch U.S. High Yield Master II Index. That's lower than its historical norm of about 5%.
In an illustration of just how risky this market can be, returns fell and then climbed so drastically in December that investors could have made almost all of that annual profit (2.1%) in just the last two weeks of the year. Moreover, this move came in the midst of headline-grabbing cash outflows. The six-month bleed was partly attributable to worries over the drop in oil prices, since energy companies make up a sizable portion of this market. Investors reportedly pulled $523 million out of the market in just one week (ending Jan. 21) last month. -- Lee Conrad with reporting from Andrew Pavia
For clients who are willing to take on a bit more risk, here we present the 10 largest high-yield funds, along with performance metrics for each.
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.Data is from Morningstar as of Jan 26.