Getting Acquainted with Fixed Income ETFs

5 mins read
by Angel One
Fixed-income ETFs offer diversification, liquidity, transparency, and cost savings but have risks like interest rates and credit. They preserve capital and offer flexibility for specific goals.

Investments in Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) have become investors’ choice due to their cost-effective nature. ETFs are investment funds that are traded on stock exchanges, similar to individual stocks. They typically aim to replicate the performance of a specific index, commodity, or basket of assets. This means when you invest in an ETF, you’re essentially buying a share of a diversified portfolio. ETFs are of different types, such as Equity ETFs, Thematic ETFs, Fixed-Income ETFs, Multi Asset ETFs, etc. 

Also Read More About Different Types of ETFs

Fixed Income Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs) have gained significant popularity among investors in recent years. These investment vehicles provide exposure to the fixed-income market while offering several benefits and risks that investors should be aware of.  In this article, we will delve into the advantages and disadvantages of Fixed Income ETFs and discuss why they can be a valuable addition to your investment portfolio.

Benefits of Investing Fixed Income ETFs

  • Diversification: One of the primary benefits of Fixed Income ETFs is the ability to achieve diversification within the fixed-income market. These ETFs typically hold a basket of bonds or other fixed-income securities, which helps spread risk across various issuers, maturities, and credit qualities. 
  • Liquidity: Fixed-income ETFs trade on stock exchanges, providing investors with the advantage of liquidity. Unlike individual bonds, which may be less liquid and difficult to sell, ETFs can be bought and sold across the trading day at market prices.
  • Transparency: Fixed-income ETFs offer transparency in terms of holdings. Investors can easily access information about the underlying bonds or securities held within the ETF, including their credit quality, duration, and yield. This transparency allows investors to make informed decisions about their investments.
  • Lower Costs: Fixed-income ETFs often have lower expense ratios than actively managed bond funds. Lower expenses can lead to better long-term returns for investors.

Risks of Investing in Fixed Income ETFs

  • Interest Rate Risk: Fixed-income ETFs are sensitive to changes in interest rates. When interest rates rise, the market value of existing bonds in the ETF’s portfolio tends to decrease, potentially leading to capital losses for investors. Conversely, when interest rates fall, bond prices may rise, resulting in capital gains.
  • Credit Risk: The credit quality of the underlying bonds in an ETF’s portfolio can vary. Lower-rated bonds, commonly referred to as high-yield or junk bonds, carry higher credit risk. If the issuer of a bond held in the ETF defaults on its payments, it can negatively impact the fund’s performance and lead to losses.
  • Liquidity Risk: While ETFs are generally more liquid than individual bonds, they can still be subject to liquidity risk, especially in times of market stress. Under extreme conditions, the bid-ask spread of ETFs may widen, and investors may experience difficulty selling their shares at a fair price.
  • Tracking Error: Fixed-income ETFs aim to replicate the performance of an underlying index, but they may not always achieve perfect tracking. Factors such as expenses, cash drag, and trading costs can lead to tracking errors, causing the ETF’s returns to deviate from the index it seeks to replicate.

Why Invest in Fixed Income ETFs?

  • Flexibility: Investors can choose from a variety of Fixed Income ETFs to match their specific investment objectives. Whether you’re seeking higher yield, lower risk, or a particular duration, there is likely an ETF that suits your needs.
  • Capital Preservation: Investing in fixed-income ETFs can help preserve capital, especially in volatile or uncertain market conditions. 

Factors to Consider Before Investing in Fixed-Income ETFs

  • Investment Objectives: You should always determine your investment goals and objectives before investing. Are you looking for income, capital preservation, or a combination of both? Your objectives will help guide your choice of Fixed Income ETFs.
  • Risk Tolerance: It is necessary to assess your risk tolerance. However, fixed-income ETFs are generally considered lower-risk investments than equities, but there are still risks involved, including interest rate risk, credit risk, and market risk.
  • Time Horizon: Consider your investment time horizon. How long do you plan to hold the ETFs? Your time horizon can influence your choice of fixed-income securities within the ETF.
  • Yield and Income Needs: Evaluate the yield or income generated by the Fixed Income ETF. Different ETFs may offer varying levels of yield, so choose one that aligns with your income needs.
  • Credit Quality: You should examine the credit quality of the underlying bonds within the ETF. Higher credit quality bonds (e.g., investment-grade) are generally less risky but offer lower yields. In contrast, lower credit quality (e.g., high-yield or junk bonds) can provide higher yields but come with increased credit risk.

Fixed-income ETFs offer a range of benefits, including diversification, liquidity, transparency, and lower costs. However, they also come with risks related to interest rates, credit quality, liquidity, and tracking errors. Before investing in Fixed Income ETFs, it’s essential to understand these factors, assess your investment goals, and consider how ETFs fit into your overall portfolio strategy. When used appropriately, Fixed Income ETFs can be a valuable tool for building a diversified and income-generating fixed-income portfolio.


What are the different types of fixed-income ETFs?

Fixed-income ETFs fall into four main categories:

  • Sovereign: Tracks bonds issued by the governments of sovereign nations, including the U.S.
  • Corporate: Tracks bonds issued by corporations.
  • Municipals: Tracks bonds issued by local U.S. municipalities.
  • Broad Market: Tracks some blend of the above.

Do fixed-income ETFs pay dividends?

Fixed-income ETFs mainly pay interest, not dividends. Real estate investment trust ( or REIT) ETFs typically pay non-qualified dividends.

What is the difference between equity ETF and fixed-income ETF?

Financial tools like equity and fixed-income contracts can assist investors in reaching their financial objectives. Fixed-income ETFs often consist of corporate or government bonds, whereas equity ETFs are typically made up of stocks or stock funds.

How do fixed-income ETFs trade?

ETF shares are bought and sold at market value, which isn’t always the same as net asset value (NAV). Interest rate increases might result in a greater principal loss on fixed-income assets.