Among high-yield bond exchange-traded funds (ETFs), the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond (HYG) and SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond ETF (JNK) are by far the most popular options, sporting average daily trading volumes of approximately 13.8 million and 12 million, respectively. Let's also take a look at three less popular options: the Alerian MLP ETF (AMLP), SPDR Nuveen S&P High Yield Muni Bond ETF (HYMB) and iShares U.S. Preferred Stock (PFF).

Aside from HYG and JNK, the differences in these ETFs are vast. For example, the majority of HYG’s holdings are rated junk, but 40% of HYMB’s holdings are investment grade. And while PFF tracks preferred shares, AMLP is tracks master limited partnerships. (For more, see: The 3 Largest High-Yield Bond ETFs.)

The list of differences can go on and on. What you likely want to know is which of these ETFs has been the best performer, what kind of dividend yield they all offer, and how expensive or inexpensive it is to own them.

 

Net Assets

Expense Ratio

1 Year Performance

Dividend Yield

Volume

HYG

$16.65 billion

0.50%

1.33%

5.59%

13.8 million

JNK

$11.96 billion

0.50%

-0.46%

6.17%

12 million

AMLP

$8.74 billion

0.85%

-9.67%

8.86%

8 million

HYMB

$507.36 million

0.45%

6.55%

4.24%

92,000

PFF

$17.02 billion

0.48%

2.54%

5.61%

2.9 million

Despite the 8.86% yield, AMLP looks to be the least appealing at this point in time due to poor performance and a high expense ratio. Ironically, the most impressive of the group is also the least popular, which is HYMB – a bond ETF that tracks the S&P Municipal Yield Index.

It actually shouldn’t come as a surprise that the highest-quality ETF has delivered the biggest return for investors. HYMB might not make you rich overnight, but it’s not going to be extremely volatile. Risks still exist, including a weakening economy and higher interest rates. (For more, see: 4 High Yielding Junk Bond ETFs.)

Dan Moskowitz does not have any positions in HYG, JNK, AMLP, HYMB or PFF.