Rising Treasury Yields Stoke Outflows From These ETFs

Ten-year Treasury yields pulled back a bit Thursday, but yields on benchmark government debt hover above 3.10 percent and are up nearly 17 percent year to date, enough to spark a wave of recent outflows from some well-known exchange traded funds (ETFs) spanning multiple asset classes.

Among equity-based ETFs, the iShares Russell 1000 ETF (IWB) has recently seen mass departures. For the week ended Oct. 10, investors yanked $2.72 billion from IWB, which tracks the widely followed Russell 1000 Index. "The $18.3 billion iShares Russell 1000 ETF, ticker IWB, saw $2.7 billion pulled from the fund Monday, the largest outflow in its 18-year existence, amounting to a loss of more than 12 percent of its assets," reports Bloomberg.

For the same week, the SPDR S&P 500 ETF (SPY), the world's largest ETF by assets, hauled in roughly the same amount of capital lost by IWB, which is potentially a sign that investors' appetite for domestic equities is not waning despite Wednesday's big declines. (See also: Why the 10-Year U.S. Treasury Yield Matters.)

Other Departures

While some broad-based equity ETFs remain high atop investors' shopping list, the same cannot be said of funds with exposure to asset classes that are historically sensitive to rising Treasury yields. That includes real estate investment trusts (REITs) and bonds.

For the week ended Oct. 10, investors pulled $479.44 million from the iShares Cohen & Steers REIT ETF (ICF), an outflows total exceeded by just eight other U.S.-listed ETFs. Underscoring investors' distaste for REIT ETFs as interest rates rise, the iShares U.S. Real Estate ETF (IYR) has seen fourth quarter outflows of $788.38 million, a total surpassed by just eight other ETFs.

ICF "saw its biggest outflow ever Monday, losing more than $464 million. The outflow reduced the fund's assets by 19 percent," according to Bloomberg. "The iShares U.S. Real Estate ETF, or IYR, lost $87 million on Monday following a week of record outflows that totaled more than $834 million. It's already on pace this month to lose the most since April 2015."

Historically, real estate stocks are inversely correlated to Treasury yields, meaning a more hawkish Federal Reserve is viewed as a drag on the real estate sector. (For more, see: Real Estate Investing in a High-Interest-Rate Environment.)

Munis, Too

Municipal bonds and the related ETFs are often favored by conservative investors, particularly when equity market volatility spikes, but data suggest that investors are leaving some well-known muni funds.

The iShares National Muni Bond ETF (MUB), the largest muni ETF, has bled almost $204 million since the start of the fourth quarter. The Vanguard Tax-Exempt Bond ETF (VTEB) has also been besieged by outflows. "[VTEB] got hit with a massive outflow of over $25 million on Monday, the biggest since the $3.6 billion fund launched in 2015," according to Bloomberg. (For more, see: Are Municipal Bonds a Good Investment?)