With interest rates at low levels for a number of years now, many investors have moved some portion of their high-quality bond portfolios to higher-yielding investments like high-yield corporate bonds. I’ve long argued that there’s not much these strategies add relative to a traditional stock fund and high-quality bond strategy. Further, the traditional stock fund and high-quality bond allocation strategy tends to have lower costs and be more tax efficient. This is a bit of a qualitative argument though, and I wanted to illustrate the point quantitatively.
From this point of view, the basic idea is that you can replicate the performance of most high yield strategies using stocks and high-quality bonds. To test this, I ran an analysis to determine what allocation between Vanguard’s S&P 500 fund (VFINX) and Vanguard’s Intermediate-Term Treasury fund (VFITX) would have historically most closely replicated the performance of Vanguard’s High Yield Corporate fund (VWEHX). (I used the period of November 1991 through April 2013, as this is the longest period of time that I had returns data for all three funds.)If my theory is true, we should see that the performance of VWEHX and the portfolio of VFINX and VFITX are basically the same or that the stock and bond fund portfolio has actually done better. If my theory doesn’t hold up, VWEHX should have outperformed the stock and bond fund portfolio.
This analysis finds that an allocation of 37 percent to VFINX and 63 percent to VFITX has most closely tracked the performance of the high yield fund. Here’s the performance comparison of those two portfolios:
I’m not making those numbers up, folks. The two portfolios generated virtually the same long-run return, but the stock and bond portfolio had a better risk-adjusted return due to lower volatility. The analytic conclusion is that there’s not much special about high-yield corporate bonds that investors couldn’t get by putting about 40 percent in stocks and 60 percent in high-quality bonds.
Random Commentary and Links of the Week
I thought this was really good, nerdy financial humor, but I’m not sure anybody else thought so: