Today, we excerpt from the March issue of Crane Data's new publication, Bond Fund Intelligence, which tracks the bond fund marketplace with a focus on the ultra-short and most conservative segments. Our latest monthly "profile" follows.... This month, Bond Fund Intelligence interviews Managing Director & Portfolio Manager Dave Martucci and Managed Reserves Investment Policy Committee Chairman and Risk Manager Saad Rehman from JPMorgan Asset Management. Martucci runs the $6 billion JPMorgan Managed Income Fund, which is the largest fund we currently track in our Conservative Ultra Short Bond Fund category, and Rehman has been instrumental in the creation of our new "Conservative" category. We discuss risk management, the growing demand for short-term products, and conservative ultra short’s place within a cash segmentation strategy, below.
BFI: How long have you been involved in the conservative ultra short bond space? Martucci: JPMorgan Chase & Co. has been managing money for corporations, governments, endowments, foundations, and individuals worldwide for well over a century. Currently, J.P. Morgan Asset Management has $1.7 trillion in AUM, around 25% of which is in our Global Liquidity business, which we've been in for over 30 years. Within the Global Liquidity business we manage cash and money market fund portfolios, as well as our conservative ultra short bond fund offering, which we call the Managed Reserves strategy.
The strategy dates back to 2004 and currently has $43 billion in AUM. Of that, around $9B is in mutual funds and the remainder is in separately managed accounts. Within the Managed Reserves strategy is the JPMorgan Managed Income Fund (JMGIX), which was launched in 2010 and now has $6B, an all-time high. I'm the lead portfolio manager and head of our Managed Reserves trading desk. I have 15 years of experience running liquidity strategies, and I've also been a portfolio manager for short duration and intermediate portfolios.
Rehman: I am a Risk Manager and Chairman of the Managed Reserves Investment Policy Committee, which formulates and approves investment policies and procedures as they relate to credit, market, and other risks applicable to the investment management of these funds and accounts. I've worked at JPM for 10 years.
BFI: How has the fund been received? Martucci: We've seen a significant amount of interest recently, as clients continue to be challenged by the Fed's zero interest rate policy. Additionally, they now face the prospect of floating NAVs on the short end and rising rates on the long end. These clients are looking for some incremental return over money market funds, but they still want a conservative approach. Rehman: In the wake of the financial crisis, a lot of clients built up large cash positions on their balance sheets. This excess cash, combined with an effective segmentation strategy, has been driving growth in this space. A natural place to put a strategic cash position to work is in a conservative solution that offers an incremental return over money funds.
Martucci: This is where the Managed Reserves strategy comes in, as it was a natural extension of our well-established money market fund platform, leveraging the best practices and procedures that we employ in that platform. For instance, an approved credit list that you typically find in a money market fund has been built upon and expanded, serving as a key piece of our Managed Reserves strategy. Since the strategy launched, these conservative foundations have enabled Managed Reserves to provide a strong track record of consistent returns over money market funds, with very limited volatility. Since inception, the Managed Reserves composite has had no period of rolling three-month losses. Fund assets are at an all-time high.
BFI: What are the biggest challenges for funds in the conservative space? Martucci: The main issue that we see is the variability of funds in this category. The issue comes from trying to define what that conservative ultra short space is. We're happy that industry leaders such as Crane and others are starting to focus on this and trying to establish it as a category of its own. Clearly, the space is somewhere between money market funds and short duration. We believe that the conservative ultra short space is not determined solely by interest rate duration, but also by spread duration, credit selection, the type of securities these funds can and do choose to hold and, most importantly, the volatility of performance. We address all these factors through robust risk management.
Rehman: What clients are looking for in this space is not just returns, but the risk associated with those returns. We have seen a period of low volatility over the past few years, which we think is masking some of the potential downside. We expect to see more volatility, potentially due to diverging central bank actions, regulations for money market funds and banks, as well as geopolitical risk. With volatility, we expect that we'll start to see divergence in performance for these conservative ultra short funds. One of the factors driving that divergence will be credit selection in these funds. For example, some funds in the ultra short space actively participate in below investment grade credit while others, like JPMorgan Managed Income, do not.
There are many ways you can analyze the risk and returns of funds in the ultra short space. For example, when you look at the average monthly returns of these funds they are somewhat clustered tightly around a mean -- whereas there's a much wider range when you look at the volatility of those returns. Another way to get a general sense of how risky a fund's returns are is to compare the percentage of negative monthly returns over a period, such as the past 12 or 36 months. You can see that the percentage for some funds is almost double that of others in the space. (Note: Watch for more excerpts from our latest BFI "profile" in coming days, or contact us to see the full issue of our new Bond Fund Intelligence.)
Crane Data released its March Money Fund Portfolio Holdings late yesterday, and our latest collection of taxable money market securities, with data as of Feb. 28, 2015, shows a jump in Repo and CP, and drops in VRDNs, Agencies, Treasuries, CDs, and Other. Money market securities held by Taxable U.S. money funds overall (those tracked by Crane Data) decreased by $52.1 billion to $2.473 trillion in February, after increasing by $5.6 billion in January, $68.3 billion in December, $11.5 billion in November, and $4.7 billion in October. CDs remained in the top spot as the largest portfolio segment among taxable money market funds, ahead of Repos. CP moved into third place, jumping ahead of Treasuries. Agencies were fifth, followed by Other (Time Deposits) and VRDNs. Money funds' European-affiliated securities represented 29.1% of holdings, down from 29.3% the previous month, while the Americas' market share fell slightly to 58.5% from 58.8%. Below, we review our latest Money Fund Portfolio Holdings statistics.
Among all taxable money funds, Certificates of Deposit (CDs) were down $7.4 billion (1.3%) to $549.0 billion, or 22.2% of assets, after increasing $28.0 billion in January and dropping $34.8 billion in December. Repurchase agreements (repo) increased $10.8 billion (2.1%) to $531.7 billion, or 21.5% of assets, after dropping $141.5 billion in January and increasing $140.3 billion in December. Commercial Paper (CP) moved up to the third largest segment, jumping $8.2 billion (2.1%) to $397.4 billion, or 16.1% of assets.
Treasury holdings, the fourth largest segment, dropped $8.2 billion (2.0%) to $395.4 billion, or 16% of assets, while Government Agency Debt remained in fifth, decreasing $42.9 billion (11.1%) to $342.3 billion, or 13.8% of assets. Other holdings, which include primarily Time Deposits, dropped $2.4 billion to $236.7 billion, or 9.6% of assets. VRDNs held by taxable funds decreased by $10.3 billion to $20.0 billion (0.8% of assets).
Among Prime money funds, CDs still represent over one-third of holdings with 35.6% (up from 35.3% a month ago), followed by Commercial Paper (25.8%). The CP totals are primarily Financial Company CP (15.7% of holdings) with Asset-Backed CP making up 5.5% and Other CP (non-financial) making up 4.6%. Prime funds also hold 5.1% in Agencies (down from 6.3%), 4.4% in Treasury Debt (up from 4.2%), 4.3% in Other Instruments, and 6.2% in Other Notes. Prime money fund holdings tracked by Crane Data total $1.540 trillion (down from $1.577 trillion last month), or 62.3% of taxable money fund holdings' total of $2.525 trillion.
Government fund portfolio assets totaled $468 billion in February, down from $472 billion in January, while Treasury money fund assets totaled $465 billion in February, down from $476 billion at the end of January. Government money fund portfolios were made up of 55.8% Agency Debt, 22.4% Government Agency Repo, 2.6% Treasury debt, and 18.7% in Treasury Repo. Treasury money funds were comprised of 67.8% Treasury debt, 31.0% Treasury Repo, and 1.2% in Government agency, repo and investment company shares.
European-affiliated holdings fell $19.9 billion in February to $719.0 billion (among all taxable funds and including repos); their share of holdings fell to 29.1% from 29.3% the previous month. Eurozone-affiliated holdings fell $10.8 billion to $399.3 billion in February; they now account for 16.2% of overall taxable money fund holdings. Asia & Pacific related holdings increased by $5.8 billion to $305.8 billion (12.4% of the total). Americas related holdings plunged $38.0 billion to $1.445 trillion, and now represent 58.5% of holdings.
The overall taxable fund Repo totals were made up of: Treasury Repurchase Agreements (up $19.2 billion to $286.7 billion, or 11.6% of assets), Government Agency Repurchase Agreements (down $5.0 billion to $157.8 billion, or 6.4% of total holdings), and Other Repurchase Agreements (down $3.3 billion to $87.1 billion, or 3.5% of holdings). The Commercial Paper totals were comprised of Financial Company Commercial Paper (up $9.8 billion to $241.2 billion, or 9.8% of assets), Asset Backed Commercial Paper (down $5.7 billion to $85.4 billion, or 3.5%), and Other Commercial Paper (up $4.2 billion to $70.8 billion, or 2.9%).
The 20 largest Issuers to taxable money market funds as of Feb. 28, 2015, include: the US Treasury ($396.2 billion, or 16.0%), Federal Home Loan Bank ($203.6B, 8.2%), Federal Reserve Bank of New York ($160.9B, 6.5%), BNP Paribas ($69.3B, 2.8%), Wells Fargo ($69.1B, 2.8%), Credit Agricole ($69.0B, 2.8%), JP Morgan ($57.8B, 2.3%), Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($55.5B, 2.2%), RBC ($55.2B, 2.2%), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Co ($54.2B, 2.2%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($53.4B, 2.2%), Bank of America ($47.6B, 1.9%), Natixis ($45.6B, 1.8%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($45.1B, 1.8%), Toronto-Dominion Bank ($43.3B, 1.7%), Federal Farm Credit Bank ($42.1B, 1.7%), Barclays PLC ($41.9B, 1.7%), Federal National Mortgage Association ($39.8B, 1.6%), Credit Suisse ($38.9B, 1.6%), and DnB NOR Bank ASA ($38.7B, 1.6%).
In the repo space, Federal Reserve Bank of New York's RPP program issuance (held by MMFs) remained the largest program with $160.9B, or 30.3% of the repo market, down fractionally from 30.6% a month ago. Of the $160.9B, $117.7 billion, or 73.2%, was in Overnight Repo, while $43.1 billion, or 26.8% was in Term Repo. The 10 largest Repo issuers (dealers) (with the amount of repo outstanding and market share among the money funds we track) include: Federal Reserve Bank of New York ($160.9B, 30.3%), Bank of America ($38.5B, 7.2%), BNP Paribas ($37.9B, 7.1%), Wells Fargo ($34.1B, 6.4%), Credit Agricole ($30.0B, 5.7%), Societe Generale ($28.1B, 5.3%), JP Morgan ($22.8B, 4.3%), Barclays PLC ($21.1B, 4.0%), Citi ($20.2B, 3.8%), and Credit Suisse ($19.3B, 3.6%).
The 10 largest issuers of CDs, CP and Other securities (including Time Deposits and Notes) combined include: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($48.9B, 4.6%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($45.1B, 4.3%), Credit Agricole ($39.0B, 3.7%), DnB NOR Bank ASA ($38.7B, 3.7%), RBC ($38.6B, 3.7%), Toronto-Dominion Bank ($38.3B, 3.6%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($37.9B, 3.6%), Natixis ($37.6B, 3.6%), Wells Fargo ($34.9B, 3.3%), and JP Morgan ($34.6B, 3.3%).
The 10 largest CD issuers include: Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd ($38.6B, 7.1%), Toronto-Dominion Bank ($37.4B, 6.9%), Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co ($37.0B, 6.8%), Bank of Nova Scotia ($31.5B, 5.8%), Mizuho Corporate Bank Ltd ($29.5B, 5.4%), Bank of Montreal ($26.3B, 4.8%), Wells Fargo ($26.1B, 4.8%), Rabobank ($24.9B, 4.6%), Natixis ($20.7B, 3.8%), and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank ($19.5B, 3.6%).
The 10 largest CP issuers (we include affiliated ABCP programs) include: JP Morgan ($23.9B, 7.1%), Commonwealth Bank of Australia ($17.5B, 5.2%), Westpac Banking Co ($16.7B, 5.0%), RBC ($15.9B, 4.8%), Lloyds TSB Bank PLC ($14.3B, 4.3%), National Australia Bank Ltd ($11.9B, 3.5%), Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd ($10.6B, 3.2%), Toyota ($10.1B, 3.0%), BNP Paribas ($9.6B, 2.9%), and Barclays PLC ($9.0B, 2.7%).
The largest increases among Issuers include: Wells Fargo (up $9.6B to $69.1B), Lloyds TSB Bank PLC (up $8.5B to $27.0B), Skandinaviska Enskilden Banken AB (up $3.0B to $31.5B), Goldman Sachs (up $2.9B to $13.4B), Bank of America (up $2.5B to $47.6B), Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Bank (up $2.4B to $21.0B), Norinchukin Bank (up $2.3B to $12.6B), Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (up $2.3B to $18.3B), ING Bank (up $2.2B to $28.9B), and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Co. (up $2.0B to $45.1B).
The largest decreases among Issuers of money market securities (including Repo) in February were shown by: Federal Home Loan Bank (down $24.5B to $203.6B), Federal National Mortgage Association (down $9.1B to $39.8B), Federal Home Loan Mortgage Co. (down $8.2B to $54.2B), Nordea Bank (down $7.9B to $20.6B), US Treasury (down $7.4B to $396.2B), Citi (down $7.3B to $33.8B), Svenska Handelsbanken (down $6.5B to $23.5B), Standard Chartered Bank (down $5.1B to $15.9B), KBC Group NV (down $5.0B to $9.5B), and Natixis (down $4.4B to $45.6B).
The United States remained the largest segment of country-affiliations; it represents 49.3% of holdings, or $1.219 trillion (down $44B). France (10.3%, $255.4B) stayed in second, followed by Canada (9.0%, $222.8B) in third. Japan (7.5%, $186.4B) remained in fourth, while the U.K. (4.9%, $121.5B) was fifth. Sweden (4.3%, $105.6B) was sixth, followed by Australia (3.6%, $89.9B) in seventh. The Netherlands (3.0%, $75.0B), Switzerland (2.2%, $53.8B), and Germany (2.1%, $50.6B) round out the top 10 among country affiliations. (Note: Crane Data attributes Treasury and Government repo to the dealer's parent country of origin, though money funds themselves "look-through" and consider these U.S. government securities. All money market securities must be U.S. dollar-denominated.)
As of Feb. 28, 2015, Taxable money funds held 25.5% of their assets in securities maturing Overnight, and another 15.1% maturing in 2-7 days (40.6% total matures in 1-7 days). Another 19.9% matures in 8-30 days, while 12.3% matures in 31-60 days. Note that almost three-quarters, or 72.7% of securities, mature in 60 days or less, the dividing line for use of amortized cost accounting under the new pending SEC regulations. The next bucket, 61-90 days, holds 11.6% of taxable securities, while 12.0% matures in 91-180 days and just 3.7% matures beyond 180 days.
Crane Data's Taxable MF Portfolio Holdings (and Money Fund Portfolio Laboratory) were updated Tuesday, and our MFI International "offshore" Portfolio Holdings and Tax Exempt MF Holdings will be released later this week. Visit our Content center to download files or visit our Portfolio Laboratory to access our "transparency" module. Contact us if you'd like to see a sample of our latest Portfolio Holdings Reports or our new Holdings Reports Issuer Module.
The preliminary agenda is available and registrations are now being taken for Crane Data's 7th annual Money Fund Symposium, which will take place June 24-26, 2015 at The Hilton Minneapolis, in Minneapolis, Minn.. Money Fund Symposium is the largest gathering of money market fund managers and cash investors in the world. Last summer's event in Boston attracted nearly 500 attendees, and we expect yet another robust turnout for our Minneapolis event this June. (Symposium participants include money fund managers, marketers and servicers, cash investors, money market securities dealers, issuers, and regulators.) Visit the MF Symposium website (www.moneyfundsymposium.com) for more details. Registration is $750, and discounted hotel reservations are also now available. We review the agenda and conference details below. (E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to request the full brochure.)
The June 24 opening afternoon agenda includes: "Welcome to Money Fund Symposium 2015" by Peter Crane, President & Publisher of Crane Data; our keynote discussion, "The New Look of Money Market Funds" with Wells Fargo Advantage Funds' President Karla Rabusch; "State of the Money Fund Industry" with Peter Crane, Debbie Cunningham of Federated Investors, and Alex Roever of JP Morgan Securities; a "European & Global Money Fund Outlook," with Jonathan Curry of the Institutional Money Market Fund Association and Jim Fuell of JP Morgan Asset Management; and, finally, a panel moderated by Charles Schwab's Rick Holland entitled, "Major Money Fund Issues 2015," featuring Tom Callahan of BlackRock, John Donohue of J.P. Morgan A.M., and Nancy Prior of Fidelity. (The opening evening's reception will be sponsored by Bank of America Merrill Lynch.)
Day 2 of Money Fund Symposium 2015 features: "Repo Review & Money Market Observations" with Joseph Abate of Barclays and Lou Crandall of Wrightson ICAP; "Senior Portfolio Manager Perspectives," moderated by Garret Sloan of Wells Fargo Securities and including Danny Burke of Goldman Sachs AM, James Palmer of First American Funds, and Rob Sabatino of UBS Global Asset Management; "Government and Treasury Fund Issues," moderated by Andrew Hollenhorst of Citi, and featuring Mike Bird of Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, Jonathan Hartley of FHL Banks Office of Finance, and Sue Hill of Federated Investors; and "Muni & Tax Exempt Money Fund issues" with Colleen Meehan of Dreyfus.
The afternoon of Day 2 (after a Dreyfus-sponsored lunch) features: "Dealer Panel: Supply Update and Outlook," moderated by Peter Yi of Northern Trust and featuring Rob Crowe of Citi; Stewart Cutler of Barclays, and Ron Flynn of JP Morgan Securities; "MMF Alternatives: Ultra-Short, Private, SMAs," moderated by JPM's Alex Roever and featuring Jonathan Carlson of BofA Global Capital Management, David Martucci of JP Morgan Asset Management, and Paul Reisz of PIMCO; "Operational & Settlement Issues with Reform," with Tony Carfang of Treasury Strategies and Charles Hawkins of BNY Mellon Asset Servicing; and a "Money Fund Ratings Roundtable" with Robert Callagy of Moody's Investors Service, Roger Merritt of Fitch Ratings, and Peter Rizzo of Standard & Poor's Ratings. (The Day 2 reception is sponsored by Barclays.)
The third day of Symposium features: "Strategists Speak '15: Rates and Higher Rates," with Brian Smedley of Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Michael Cloherty of RBC Capital Markets, and Ira Jersey of Credit Suisse; "Money Fund Reforms: Questions on the Rule" with Stephen Keen of Reed Smith, Sarah ten Siethoff of the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, and Jack Murphy of Dechert LLP; "More on Money Fund Reforms: Adoption Issues" with Joan Swirsky of Stradley Ronon <i:http://www.stradley.com>`_ and Tim Schiltz of Ameriprise Financial. Finally, the last session is entitled, "Money Fund Data, Statistics, and Software," with Peter Crane presenting on the latest money fund information tools.
We hope you'll join us in Minneapolis this June! (We'd also like to encourage attendees, speakers and sponsors to register and make hotel reservations early.) In other conference news, Crane's 3rd annual "offshore" money fund event, European Money Fund Symposium, will be held in Dublin, Ireland, September 17-18, 2015. This website (www.euromfs.com) is also now live and accepting reservations, though we continue to tweak our preliminary agenda. (Contact us if you'd like to sponsor.) Finally, our next Money Fund University "basic training" event is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 21-22, 2016 in Boston. Watch www.cranedata.com in coming months for more details.
In other news, the NY Fed released yet another "Statement Regarding Term Reverse Repurchase Agreements." The latest one says, "As noted in the January 28, 2015, Statement Regarding Term Reverse Repurchase Agreements, the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) instructed the Open Market Trading Desk (the Desk) at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to conduct a series of term RRP operations from mid-February through early March. These tests are intended to help the Desk examine how term RRP operations might work as an additional supplementary tool to help control the federal funds rate. The tests will consist of four one-week term RRP operations to take place on successive Thursdays. The amount offered and maximum offering rate associated with each operation will be announced on or around the Monday prior to the operation. A tentative schedule, updated to include additional details on the operation to be conducted on February 19, follows."
Crane's 5th Annual Money Fund University, a two-day crash course in money market mutual funds, attracted nearly 100 attendees to the Stamford Marriott in Stamford, Conn., late last week. Our Day 1 recap features coverage of the History of Money Funds, the Federal Reserve, Interest Rates and Money Fund Math, and Fund Ratings, as well as sessions explaining the various Instruments of the Money Markets (including Repurchase Agreements, Commercial Paper, CDs, Tax-Exempt/VRDNs, CDs, Treasurys, and Time Deposits). Day 2, which we will report on in coming days (and in our February MFI), focused exclusively on Money Fund Regulations. "A day and a half is really not enough time to learn about a space as big as the money fund sector, but we're going to give you a crash course and try," said Peter Crane, President, Crane Data, as well as host and MC for the event. He opened the conference leading a session called "History and Current State of Money Funds. (Note: Crane Data's next conference will be our flagship Money Fund Symposium, June 24-26 in Minneapolis. The next European Money Fund Symposium will be Sept. 17-18 in Dublin and our next MF University will be Jan. 21-22, 2016, in Boston.)
"In 1994, when I started writing about money funds and when the Community Bankers Fund 'broke the buck,' the space was only about $500 billion. Money market funds were not this behemoth that they were when the Reserve Fund broke the buck in 2008 and almost took down the world economy with it. Money funds peaked at $3.9 trillion in January 2009 after Reserve broke the buck; money was still pouring in because money funds lagged the money markets." Since that time, money fund assets declined precipitously over the next few years, dropping by about 15% per year in 2010 and 2011, he explained. But then the last 3 years in a row, money fund assets have clawed higher despite a near zero interest rate environment. "The fact that money fund assets have gone up fractionally the last 3 years in a row is just mind boggling," he said, testament to the safety and stability of the funds, which were made even safer by recent reforms.
On the other hand, there is the question of how recent reforms will impact money funds going forward, particularly Prime Institutional, which will be subject to a floating NAV in October 2016. "Institutional investors say they are going to leave, but as Churchill said about America, institutional investors will do the right thing, and stay in prime institutional money funds, after they've exhausted every other possibility," quipped Crane. He believes that any outflows we do see from Prime Institutional MMFs will be "dwarfed by inflows from bank deposits and perhaps from bond funds as well."
In the session that followed, two of the leading strategists in the space discussed "The Federal Reserve and US Money Markets." Brian Smedley, US Rates Strategist at BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, shared his thoughts on when interest rates will rise. "Our expectation is that the Fed will start to shift up the Fed Funds target range starting in September of this year and from there we see hikes proceeding every other meeting, so half as fast as what they pursued last time." He expects it will go up to the 0.25-0.50% range in September, then to 0.50-0.75% in December 2015. By December 2016, rates will reach the 1.50-1.75% range, he said.
"There's an old proverb that says, "May you live in interesting times," and I think that's a fairly accurate description of financial market conditions, certainly in money markets at the moment," said Joseph Abate, Senior Vice President, Liquid Market Research at Barclays Capital. He focused on 4 topics; 1) the ongoing shortage of government safe assets in the financial sector and how that effects behavior in money markets, 2) how the repo market is changing largely because of dynamics related to the Fed and regulation, 3) the Federal Reserves arsenal of tools, namely reverse repo and term deposits, and 4) market liquidity, especially in prime assets. Going forward, he said, "The next battle, if you will, is not going to show up on this front, it's going to come from somewhere else, and I think it's going to be liquidity."
In her overview of the "Instruments of the Money Markets," J.P. Morgan Securities' Teresa Ho, Vice President, Short Duration Strategy, talked about challenges related to supply. "At its peak (in 2007) total money market supply was around $11.5 trillion. If you exclude Treasurys, the peak was about $9.5 trillion" she said. "Fast forward to today, and that has fallen to $5.5 trillion (excluding Treasurys) so we've seen a drop of about $4 trillion in the sector. As you might expect, a lot of it was driven by banks.
Case in point, the commercial paper market peaked at about $2 trillion at the end of 2006; half of that was in ABCP, or asset-backed commercial paper. This was a very popular way back in the day for banks to fund on a short-term basis on behalf of their clients. This particular product has really fallen by the wayside. The economics for banks to participate in this market has really waned. So right now the ABCP market is at its all-time low, at $230 billion, and it is our expectation that this sector will continue to decline going forward because of other regulatory headwinds." Another sector that has declined is the repo sector. "This is a market that has also suffered from the liquidity crisis. It has shrunk almost by half since 2007 and will continue to shrink if you look at all the regulations out there.
On the other hand, investors still see money market funds as a good way to invest their cash on a short-term basis, so demand is strong. "When you think about what has happened with supply over the last couple of years and factor that in to what's happened with demand -- you have a situation where there's too much cash chasing too few assets. There's a huge gap between supply and demand, and it's the reason why we see the competition for assets right now.... [It's] so intense that's its driving rates very, very low in the front end market. There's a real concern that a lot of money will move out of bank deposits into money market funds because of regulations.... If indeed that is the case and cash moves from bank deposits to money market funds, then this supply/demand imbalance becomes even more acute in the absence of additional supply."
There are some bright spots, however. One is Collateralized CP, which is a small but growing sector of the market at about $30-$35 billion. "Investors have been very attracted to this product." (Rob Crowe, Director, Institutional Clients Group, and Jean Luc Sinniger, Director, Money Markets, both of Citi Global Markets, took a deeper dive into CP in their session later in the day on "Instruments: Commercial Paper and ABCP.") Another glimmer of hope is in the Treasury Bill market.
Ho commented, "We have heard from the U.S. Department of the Treasury that they intend to increase their operating cash balances. Right now they run an average of about $60 billion; the expectation is that that they want to raise it to $500 billion. I suspect if they do that, a lot of it would be funded in the bill [market]. If that is the case, we'll see about $400-$450B in T-Bill supply." She said in closing, "Regulations are going to alter and fundamentally change the landscape, but the markets will adapt and they will evolve and meet whatever needs are out there."
Finally, Day 1 ended with a session led by Adam Ackerman, Vice President and Portfolio Manager at J.P. Morgan Asset Management on "Portfolio Management & Credit Analysis." Ackerman said, "My presentation is about taking everything you've seen today and bringing it all together to give you some insight into how portfolio managers think -- how we assess risk and model a portfolio for our fundamental goal, which is to provide liquidity." He said his primary goal is the preservation of capital. After that, his goals are to provide adequate liquidity and competitive yield, in that order. "Yield is important but it doesn't drive our decision making as portfolio managers, primarily."
He added, "We are in the business of providing liquidity; cash right now. We need to provide any type of liquidity that's demanded, whether it's billions or millions. We need to manage well enough so that we can manage any type of flow risk at any time." In terms of credit analysis, "Generally, the way we think about it is, the higher the credit rating, the higher the liquidity. The better the credit quality, the more concentration I'm comfortable with. Conversely, with lower credit quality, you want to lower your risk through lower concentrations." J.P. Morgan employs a rigorous credit selection process that includes their own internal analysis, he explained. Finally, he said, the ultimate measure of success is how well you meet investors' demands of preservation of capital, liquidity, managing risk, and yield. Do that well, and the assets will come.... Stay tuned for coverage of Day 2 in coming days.
As we mentioned Thursday when we released the January issue of our flagship Money Fund Intelligence newsletter, each year Crane Data recognizes the top-performing money funds, ranked by total returns, for calendar year 2014, as well as the top-ranked funds for the past 5‐year and past 10-year periods. We present the following funds with our annual Money Fund Intelligence Awards. These include the No. 1-ranked funds based on 1-year, 5-year and 10-year returns, through Dec. 31, 2014, in each of our major fund categories -- Prime Institutional, Government Institutional, Treasury Institutional, Prime Retail, Government Retail, Treasury Retail and Tax‐Exempt. Below, we reprint the MFI article announcing the winners. (We mentioned the 1-year winners on the website Thursday -- see our Jan. 8 News "Dec. MFI Features Awards, JPM's Donohue & Linton; Fed Shelves CSAs". We repeat them here, but we also review the 5-year and 10-year top-performers below.)
The Top-Performing Taxable fund overall in 2014 and top among Prime Institutional funds was BlackRock Cash Inst MMF (BGIXX), which returned 0.11%. (We excluded BlackRock Cash's SL class due to its limited availability.) Among Prime Retail funds, Invesco Money Market Cash Reserve (AIMXX) and Schwab Cash Reserve (SWSXX) had the best return in 2014 (0.06%). BofA Govt Plus Reserve Capital (GIGXX), Morgan Stanley Inst Liquid Govt Inst (MVRXX), and Western Asset Inst Govt MM Inst (INGXX) were the Top Government Institutional funds over a 1-year period with returns of 0.04%, while BofA Govt Plus Reserve Investor (BOPXX) and Morgan Stanley Inst Liq Govt Cash Mgmt (MSGXX) won the MFI Award for Government Retail Money Funds (based on 1-year return). Morgan Stanley Inst Liq Treasury Inst (MISXX) and Western Asset Inst US Treasury Obligation MMF Inst (LUIXX) were No. 1 in the Treasury Institutional class, and Morgan Stanley Inst Liq Treasury Cash Mgmt (MREXX) ranked tops among Treasury Retail funds.
For the 5-year period through Dec. 31, 2014, BlackRock Cash Inst MMF Inst (BGIXX) and Fidelity Inst MM Portfolio (FNSXX) took top honors for the best performing Prime Institutional money fund with returns of 0.18%. Meeder Money Market Fund Retail (FFMXX) once again ranked No. 1 among Prime Retail with an annualized return of 0.11%. American Beacon US Govt Select (AAOXX) ranked No. 1 among Govt Institutional funds, while Davis Government MMF (RPGXX) ranked No. 1 among Govt Retail funds over the past 5 years. BlackRock Cash Treasury MMF Inst (BRIXX) ranked No. 1 in 5-year performance among Treasury Inst money funds, and Northern Trust Treasury Money Market (NITXX) ranked No. 1 among Treasury Retail funds.
The highest‐performers of the past 10 years included: Touchstone Inst MMF (TINXX), which returned 1.82% (it was No. 1 overall and first among Prime Inst, though this fund will be liquidating -- see our Dec. 26 News "Touchstone to Liquidate Money Funds, Victim of SEC's MMF Reforms"); Fidelity Select MM Portfolio (FSLXX), which returned 1.67% (the highest among Prime Retail); American Beacon US Govt Select (AAOXX) and Goldman Sachs FS Govt Inst (FGTXX), which returned 1.61%, (No. 1 among Govt Inst funds); and Vanguard Federal Money Market Fund (VMFXX), which ranked No. 1 among Govt Retail funds (1.57%). BlackRock Cash Treasury MMF Inst (BRIXX) returned the most among Treasury Institutional funds over the past 10 years; and, Morgan Stanley Inst Liq Treasury Inv (MTNXX) ranked No. 1 among Treasury Retail money funds.
We're also giving out awards for the best-performing Tax‐Exempt money funds. Fidelity AMT Tax Free Money Fund (FIMXX) and Invesco Tax Exempt Cash Fund A (ACSXX) ranked No. 1 for the 1-year period ended Dec. 31, 2014, with returns of 0.11%. Over the last 5 years, BMO Tax Free MMF I (MFIXX) was the top performer with a return of 0.21%. BMO Tax Free MMF I also was the top-ranked fund for the 10-year period ended Dec. 31, with a return of 1.37%. See our latest Money Fund Intelligence XLS for more detailed rankings. Winners will receive a letter and certificate stating their No. 1 ranking , the number of funds in their category, and the criteria used.
In others news, management consulting firm Beacon Consulting Group released a white paper, entitled, "Getting Ready for Money Market Reform last week. BCG Principal Gerry Healy writes, "The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) money market reform imposes new operational requirements on institutional money market funds and provides retail money market fund boards with new tools should certain market events occur. Now is the time for asset managers and service providers to organize a readiness assessment program in anticipation of potential operating model changes, new procedures, technology modifications and new data flows that may be required in order to meet the operational requirements and regulatory filing deadlines,"
The paper explains, "Money market reform readiness activities generally consist of working with all affected functions to ensure that: Systems and processes are capable of handling the requirement for institutional funds to use a floating NAV out to four decimal places; Data and processes are established to comply with SEC filings (new data on Form NMFP and new Form N-CR) that may be required; and, Investor liquidity requirements (e.g. intraday dealing) are met."
On Accounting and NAV Dissemination, it says, "Fortunately, most fund accounting systems currently in use appear to be able to calculate the floating NAVs to the four decimal place requirement. Where firms will likely spend the most time during this phase is ensuring that the extracts and reports delivered to internal and external interested parties are retrofitted to accommodate the dissemination of the four decimal place NAV. All reports currently used to support money market funds, including hard copy reports, data extracts, management reporting, should be analyzed to ensure compliance. The reports will drive the development of business requirements that may be required to close any gaps related to NAV dissemination."
On the subject, Regulatory Filings - Data, the paper explains, "A trigger event that may require a filing occurs in one of two ways: via market activity or through board approved measures such as redemption gates or redemption fees. Once a trigger event is approved by the board or occurs within the portfolio due to market activity, a Form N-CR filing requirement results. A "sources and uses" data matrix for the N-CR and NMFP filings is useful in developing requirements for any data or reporting gaps and tracks key inputs required to complete the new forms."
Finally, the paper says, "Complying with money market reform requirements will require a significant collaboration between asset managers and service providers. The asset manager's role in orchestrating this coordination is critical. An approach that includes a sound analysis of process changes and data requirements, followed by a comprehensive action plan to remediate any gaps can ensure a successful compliance process."
Crane Data kicks off its slate of 2015 conferences with Money Fund University, which is right around the corner, January 22-23, 2015, at the Stamford Marriott in Stamford, Conn. The 5th annual Crane's Money Fund University is designed for those new to the money market fund industry or those in need of a concentrated refresher on the basics. But the event also focuses on hot topics like money market reforms and other recent industry trends. The conference features a faculty of the money fund industry's top lawyers, strategists, and portfolio managers. If you haven't already registered, there's still time -- click here to register. (Tickets for the 1 1/2 day event are $500, but our block of discounted hotel rooms is only available through Thursday, Jan. 8) Registration is also now open for our "big show" -- Crane's Money Fund Symposium, which will be June 24-26, 2015, in Minneapolis, Minn.
MFU offers attendees an affordable and comprehensive one and a half day, "basic training" course on money market mutual funds, educating attendees on the history of money funds, the Fed, interest rates, ratings, rankings, money market instruments such as commercial paper, CDs and repo, plus portfolio construction and credit analysis. At our Stamford event, we will also take a deep dive into the SEC's new money market reforms, with several sessions on the topic.
The morning of Day One of the 2015 MFU agenda includes: History & Current State of Money Market Mutual Funds with Peter Crane, President & Publisher, Crane Data; The Federal Reserve & Money Markets with Brian Smedley, U.S. rates, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Joseph Abate, Director, Fixed Income Strategy at Barclays; Interest Rate Basics & Money Fund Math with Phil Giles, Adjunct Professor, Columbia University; and, Ratings, Monitoring & Performance with Greg Fayvilevich, Director, Fitch Ratings and Barry Weiss, Director, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services.
Day One's afternoon agenda includes: Instruments of the Money Markets Intro with Teresa Ho, Vice President, J.P. Morgan Securities; Repurchase Agreements with Teresa Ho and Shaina Negron, Associate, J.P. Morgan Securities; Treasuries & Govt Agencies with Sue Hill, Senior Portfolio Manager, Federated Investors; Commercial Paper & ABCP with Rob Crowe, Director, Citi Global Markets and Jean-Luc Sinniger, Director, Money Markets, Citi Global Markets; CDs, TDs & Bank Debt with Garrett Sloan, Fixed Income Strategist, Wells Fargo Securities and Marian Trano, senior Vice President and Treasurer, Bank Hapoalim; Instruments of the Money Markets: Tax-Exempt Securities, VRDNs, TOBs & Muni Bonds with Colleen Meehan, Senior Portfolio Manager, Dreyfus Corp., and Rebecca Glen, Senior Research Analyst, Dreyfus Corp.; and, Credit Analysis & Portfolio Management with Adam Ackermann, VP & Portfolio Manager, J.P. Morgan Asset Management.
Day Two's agenda includes: Money Fund Regulations: 2a-7 Basics & History with John Hunt, Partner, Nutter, McClennan & Fish LLP and Joan Swirsky, Of Counsel, Stradley Ronon; Regulations II: New MMF Reforms with Stephen Keen, Counsel, Reed Smith and Jack Murphy, Partner, Dechert LLP; Regulations III: More Reforms, Hot Topics with Stephen Keen and Jack Murphy; and Money Fund Data and Wisdom Demo with Peter Crane. The conference ends with its annual MFU "Graduation" ceremony (where diplomas are given to attendees).
New portfolio managers, analysts, investors, issuers, service providers, and anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of "cash" investing should benefit from our comprehensive program. Even experienced professionals may enjoy a refresher course and the opportunity to interact with peers in an informal setting. Attendee registration for Crane's Money Fund University is just $500, exhibit space is $2,000, and sponsorship opportunities are $3K, $4K, and $5K. A block of rooms has been reserved at the Stamford Marriott. For more information on how to become a sponsor or exhibitor, click here.
We'd like to thank our MFU sponsors -- Fitch Ratings, Dreyfus/BNY Mellon CIS, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, and Dechert LLP -- for their support, and we look forward to seeing you in Stamford in just over two weeks. E-mail Pete Crane (email@example.com) for the latest brochure or visit www.moneyfunduniversity.com for more details.
Crane Data also has posted the preliminary agenda for our flagship conference, Money Fund Symposium, which will be held June 24-26, 2015, at the Minneapolis Hilton in Minneapolis, Minn. The website -- www.moneyfundsymposium.com -- is live and we're now accepting registrations for our 7th annual Symposium. Crane Data, with partner Kinsley Meetings, hosted the largest gathering of money fund professionals anywhere (we had a record attendance of 495) last past summer in Boston, and we again expect a capacity crowd in Minnesota.
Crane's Money Fund Symposium offers money market portfolio managers, investors, issuers, and service providers a concentrated and affordable educational experience, as well as an excellent and informal networking venue. Registration for Crane's Money Fund Symposium 2015 will remain $750 (like it's been the past 6 years); exhibit space is $3,000; and sponsorship opportunities are $4.5K, $6K, $7.5K, and $10K.
Finally, watch for the preliminary agenda on our 3rd annual European Money Fund Symposium soon. Our next "offshore" money fund event is scheduled for Sept. 17-18, 2015, in Dublin, Ireland. Let us know if you'd like more information on any of our upcoming conferences, and watch for more information in coming weeks.
Mutual fund news source Ignites.com published an "Opinion" piece entitled, "Things are Looking Up for Money Funds in 2015," which features commentary from Crane Data President Peter Crane. Our Crane writes, "Money market fund providers have lived with the pain of zero interest rates and the threat of radical regulatory change for six years, but 2015 is expected to bring big changes on both fronts.... Now things are looking up for money funds, and next year could even be downright excellent for such "cash" investments. However, there also are plenty of reasons to remain cautious. So while I believe that money funds will see light at the end of the tunnel in 2015, there is a chance that the industry could see an oncoming train instead. Below are three predictions for the sector, along with a brief outlook and some other developments to watch for. 1. The Federal Reserve should begin to increase interest rates sometime after mid-2015, ending an era of near-zero yield. While higher interest rates do carry risks for money funds, they should be a godsend to their managers and investors. Fee waivers have savaged fund revenues, causing managers to forgo more than 60% of the fees that they normally collect. Last year, money fund managers collected in the neighborhood of $5 billion of what normally would be an $8 billion annual fee total. Even one Federal Reserve rate hike during 2015 could mean several billion dollars in annualized revenue being returned to these funds, and two increases should restore almost all of the waivers.... Forecasts are for the Fed funds target to be more than 1% by the end of 2015 and 2.5% by the end of 2016, which should be great news for money funds. 2. Money funds should actually see significant asset inflows. With rising interest rates, money funds likely will regain their historical yield advantage over what is now more than $10 trillion in bank deposits, where the vast majority of "hot" money now resides. Institutional assets, in particular, could pour out of deposits as banks feel pressure to cover new regulatory costs stemming from their $4 trillion in uninsured deposits. In addition, bond fund flows could reverse in 2015 if the Fed hikes interest rates as expected.... The bottom line: money fund assets should grow between 5% and 10%, or somewhere between $135 billion and $270 billion of inflows, in 2015, up from the current AUM total of $2.7 trillion.... 3.The common wisdom about ultra-short bond funds, separately managed accounts (SMAs) and private money funds' gaining a substantial amount of assets will prove to be wrong. While there will be continued innovation and interest in the cash-management space outside of traditional money funds, the vast majority of assets will remain within them. Money market fund assets have been stable for three years -- and through the most stressful, trying time in the history of money funds. That fact indicates that money fund investors are in no hurry to move away from the vehicle."
Final preparations are being made for next month's fifth annual Money Fund University, which will be held at The Stamford Marriott in Stamford, Conn., Jan. 22-23, 2015. (Please Note: Our discounted room rate at the Stamford Marriott of $159 plus tax is only available through Tuesday, Dec. 30.) Crane's Money Fund University offers attendees an affordable ($500) and comprehensive one and a half day, "basic training" course on money market mutual funds, educating attendees on the history of money funds, the Fed, interest rates, ratings, rankings, money market instruments such as commercial paper, CDs and repo, plus portfolio construction and credit analysis. At our Stamford event, we will also take a deep dive into the SEC's new money market reforms, with several sessions on the topic. New portfolio managers, analysts, investors, issuers, service providers, and anyone interested in expanding their knowledge of "cash" investing should benefit from our comprehensive program. Even experienced professionals may enjoy a refresher course and the opportunity to interact with peers in an informal setting. Attendee registration for Crane's Money Fund University is just $500, exhibit space is $2,000, and sponsorship opportunities (which are still available) are $3K, $4K, and $5K. We'd like to thank our MFU sponsors -- Fitch Ratings, Dreyfus/BNY Mellon CIS, J.P. Morgan Asset Management, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, Wells Fargo Advantage Funds, Dechert and Invesco -- for their support, and we look forward to seeing you in Stamford next month. E-mail Pete Crane (firstname.lastname@example.org) for the latest brochure or visit www.moneyfunduniversity.com) to register or for more details. Crane Data is also preparing the preliminary agenda, and registration is now live, for our big show, Money Fund Symposium, which will be held June 24-26, 2015, at the Minneapolis Hilton in Minneapolis, Minn.
Crane Data, which has published its flagship Money Fund Intelligence newsletter since 2006, is in the process of launching a new publication, Bond Fund Intelligence. Our latest monthly newsletter, which has been in "beta" testing the past two months, covers bond funds (including ETFs), with an initial focus on the ultra-short end of the spectrum. Bond Fund Intelligence includes news, features, and performance data on over 150 (up from 88 last month) of the largest bond funds. Crane Data also offers an Excel "complement" with even more performance, data and rankings, Bond Fund Intelligence XLS. BFI also includes our new Crane BFI Indexes, which will provide benchmarks for various bond market segments, including a new Conservative Ultra-Short BFI Index, a more focused benchmark for the more conservative funds in the space just beyond money market funds. While the official launch of Issue No. 1 is set for mid-January, Crane Data recently sent out its second "beta" edition to subscribers. (Let us know if you'd like to see a copy.)
The December "beta" issue of Bond Fund Intelligence features the articles: "Bond Funds Have Another Big Year; Will Party End in 2015?," an introduction to BFI and a review of year-to-date asset totals; "BFI Profile: Guggenheim's Belden Talks About GSY," an interview with William Belden, managing director and head of product development and management at Guggenheim Investments; and our monthly, "Bond Fund News, which recaps the month's biggest bond fund stories. We also include a number of bond fund rankings and full tables with Nov. 30, 2014, performance statistics, as well as our Crane Bond Fund Indexes.
Our lead "Bond Funds Have Another Big Year" article explains, "Welcome to our 2nd "beta" issue of the new Bond Fund Intelligence! Crane Data, which publishes Money Fund Intelligence and information on money market mutual funds, is launching a new suite of products that track bond funds. Our initial focus is on the conservative, ultra‐short segment of the market, where we hope to produce more focused peer groups and averages. But we intend to keep expanding our coverage (this issue has 150 funds vs. 88 in our first "beta" issue and is 8 pages instead of 4), and we'll continue to refine our data collections throughout the coming year."
It continues, "2014 appears to be yet another year of big asset gains for bond funds. Assets have increased by over $200 billion YTD through October (according to ICI's statistics), and they've increased by almost $2 trillion since 2008. Given the big inflows into bonds since the zero rate regime started, we don't expect 2015 to be pretty, if indeed rate hikes are in the cards. Nonetheless, interest in the short-term space should continue to build as MMF reform approaches in 2016."
In our monthly BFI "profile," we interviewed Guggenheim's William Belden, managing director and head of product development and management at Guggenheim Investments. We asked Belden about the launch and positioning of Guggenheim's Enhanced Short Duration ETF and its place in the changing cash management industry. On the firm's history and the fund's background, he said, "Guggenheim was founded in 1999 and has about $220 billion in assets under management with about $140 billion in fixed income. The short duration part of that space is a meaningful chunk of that asset base. The Guggenheim Enhanced Short Duration ETF (GSY) originally was launched as a passively managed index-based ETF in 2008 then switched over to an active strategy in 2011. I have been with Guggenheim since 2009."
On how GSY has been received, Belden said, "Assets and recognition for the GSY strategy started to take off at the beginning of 2012. We're now at about $530 million in assets. We have been very pleased with the performance and the acceptance of the product, but we still feel like we're scratching the surface of what the opportunity ultimately presents us with. We present GSY as a cash alternative, and certainly something that is appealing from a yield perspective in comparison to money market funds or other cash vehicles. We talk about the fact that 90 to 100 basis points in nominal terms, given the risk/return profile of GSY in contrast to other cash investments, is pretty appealing -- and that has resonated. I think GSY fills a very nice sleeve." (Watch for more of the BFI Guggenheim "profile" in coming days.)
In our "Bond Funds News" section, we cover a variety of stories, including, "Bond Funds Hoard Cash." It says, "An article in The Wall Street Journal, entitled, "Bond Funds Load Up on Cash," says "[L]arge bond funds are holding the most cash since the financial crisis as portfolio managers brace for potential price swings and unruly trading ahead of an expected Federal Reserve rate increase in 2015." Citing Morningstar, the article says the 10 largest U.S. bond funds held an average of 6.6% of their portfolios in cash -- twice as much as 2013 and the most since 2007. It adds, "Adding cash can hurt fund performance but is just one strategy bond managers are using to shore up their funds' defenses in preparation for a turn in investor sentiment."
Also in the news, "Gross's New Bond Fund Tops $1B." The news brief says, "Since Bill Gross defected from PIMCO to Janus in late September, assets in the fund he manages, the Janus Unconstrained Bond Fund, have topped $1 billion, reports The Wall Street Journal. Investors poured $770 million into the fund in November, on top of the $364 million to total $1.2 billion. It had a mere $12 million when he arrived. Gross's former fund, PIMCO Total Return, had $290 billion in assets as of May 2013, writes the WSJ. It has seen $60 billion in outflows since Gross left."
Crane Data's December BFI XLS with Nov. 30, 2014, data shows total bond fund assets at $1.175 trillion. Just 7% of this asset total was in the Ultra-Short segment of the market; Crane Data shows a mere $22.3 billion in our new Conservative Ultra-Short Bond Fund category and $59.3 billion in our Ultra-Short category. The Crane BFI Index, which tracks 150 bond funds, was yielding 1.44%. The BFI Conservative UltraShort Index yields 0.78%; BFI UltraShort Index yields 0.84%; BFI Short-Term Index yields 1.42%; BFI Intermediate-Term Index yields 2.16%; and BFI Long-Term Index yields 2.41%. The 5 largest bond funds in the BFI universe, as of Nov. 30, include: PIMCO Total Return Inst ($162.8B), Vanguard Total Bond Market 2 Index ($54.4B), Vanguard Total Bond Market Index ($53.4), PIMCO Income Inst ($40.4B), and DoubleLine Total Return Inst ($37.8B). Contact us for a sample issue or more details. Bond Fund Intelligence is $500 a year (1-3 users), or $1,000 a year including the BFI XLS "complement".
The SEC posted a primer entitled, "Ultra-Short Bond Funds: Know Where You're Parking Your Money. It says, "Ultra-short bond funds are mutual funds that generally invest in fixed income securities with extremely short maturities, or time periods in which they become due for payment. Like other bond mutual funds, ultra-short bond funds may invest in a wide range of securities, including corporate debt, government securities, mortgage-backed securities, and other asset-backed securities. If you are considering investing in an ultra-short bond fund, keep in mind that ultra-short bond funds can vary significantly in their risks and rewards. In fact, some ultra-short bond funds may lose money despite their investment objective of preserving capital. The level of risk associated with a particular ultra-short bond fund may depend on a variety of factors, including: Credit Quality of the Fund's Investments -- It's important to know the types of securities a fund invests in because ultra-short bond funds may experience losses due to credit downgrades or defaults of their portfolio securities. Credit risk is less of a factor for ultra-short bond funds that principally invest in government securities. By contrast, if you invest in an ultra-short bond fund that invests in bonds of companies with lower credit ratings, derivative securities, or private label mortgage-backed securities, you'll generally be subject to a higher level of risk. Maturity Dates of the Fund's Investments -- The maturity date of a security is the date that it becomes due for payment. An ultra-short bond fund that holds securities with longer average maturity dates will be riskier than a fund with shorter average maturity dates — assuming the funds are otherwise similar. Sensitivity to Interest Rate Changes -– Generally, when interest rates go up, the value of debt securities will go down. Because of this, you can lose money investing in any bond fund, including an ultra-short bond fund. In a high interest rate environment, certain ultra-short bond funds may be especially vulnerable to losses. Before you invest in any ultra-short bond fund, be sure to read about a fund's "duration," which measures how sensitive the fund's portfolio may be to changes in interest rates." Finally, note that Crane Data plans to launch a new publication, Bond Fund Intelligence, to cover the largest ultra-short bond funds, ETFs, "enhanced cash" vehicles, and separate accounts in this space. Contact us at email@example.com for more information or to receive the beta issues of our pending Bond Fund Intelligence.Archives »