This ETF’s popularity shows investors are confident inflation has calmed down

An exchange-traded fund focused on long-term Treasury bonds has started to pull away from its competitors as inflation in the U.S. falls closer to the Federal Reserve’s target range. The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) raked in nearly $2 billion of inflows over the past week, according to FactSet. It has been the most popular fixed income ETF this year, with almost $14 billion in net flows. No other bond ETF has brought in more than $10 billion. With inflation declining and the Fed slowing its pace of hikes, investors do appear to be shifting into longer-dated bonds and away from inflation trades, said Steve Laipply, global co-head of bond ETFs at BlackRock. “What you see is an investor base that believes inflation has peaked, will continue to come down, appears to be keen on diversifying their portfolios with longer-duration Treasurys and in general is maintaining a bias toward higher-quality fixed income,” Laipply said. The three most popular short-term Treasury funds this year — the iShares 0-3 Month Treasury Bond ETF (SGOV) , the Schwab Short-Term U.S. Treasury ETF (SCHO) and the Vanguard Short-Term Treasury ETF (VGSH) — have pulled in less cash combined than TLT, while the iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) has actually seen about $2 billion in outflows this year, according to FactSet. Short-term ETFs appeared to be more popular with investors last year when the Fed was hiking interest rates aggressively. Short-term bonds tend to see less of a price decline when rates rise, and also allow investors to capture the higher income created by the inverted yield curve. But with the Fed skipping a rate hike at its June meeting while signaling a period of higher-for-longer rates ahead, the longer-term Treasury funds now appear to be less at risk of price declines from more aggressive rate hikes. If the Fed is able to cut rates, the funds like TLT will likely see greater price jumps than their short-term counterparts. The fixed income ETF market is much less developed than on the equity side but is growing quickly, which means flows driven by investor sentiment can sometimes be obscured by the secular change for the industry. Total bond market ETF assets crossed $2 trillion earlier this month, according to BlackRock. For comparison, the equity ETFs from BlackRock alone had an average assets under management of $2.2 trillion during the second quarter, according to the company’s earnings report .

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