Five Things You Should Know About Housing Reform Legislation

Posted by Michael S. Canter (pictured) and Matthew D. Bass of AllianceBernstein (NYSE: AB) A recent US Senate bill calls for a restructuring of the government’s role in housing finance, including winding down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Here are five takeaways from the current proposal.

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Reaching for Yield: Worth the Risk?

Investors seeking more robust returns in a lower-interest-rate environment often look to high-yield bonds for answers. But it’s critical that they don’t reach too far down the credit spectrum in search of higher yields—as tempting as it may be.

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Bond History: Rhyming, Not Repeating

When the Fed does eventually start raising interest rates, at AllianceBernstein we don’t expect to see bonds experiencing the dire scenarios of 1981 or 1994. Instead, the 2003–2006 period of slow and measured rate normalization seems more likely. But it’s not a perfect match, and we do see some important investment factors to consider.

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High Yield: The Perfect Storm That Wasn’t

In a year when the US Federal Reserve caused jitters over quantitative easing, the US government endured a shutdown and investors shifted focus to equities, it’s no surprise that pure “duration-sensitive” bonds like US Treasuries had negative returns as interest rates spiked. But high yield emerged relatively unscathed, returning over 7% for the year.

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EM Sovereign Debt 2014: Neither Phoenix nor Failure

Emerging-market (EM) sovereign bonds were burned badly in 2013. Will they rise from the ashes in 2014? We believe some will and some won’t. The watchword for 2014 will be selectivity.

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The Fed Did Nothing—but Bond Investors Can Act Now

The US Federal Reserve surprised the market on September 18 when it announced that it wouldn’t “taper” its monthly US$85 billion asset purchase program until the economy strengthens. Many investors saw this as a reprieve. We see it as a chance to position bond portfolios for rising rates.

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GSE Reform Lumbers Up to the Starting Gate

Momentum is finally building to do something with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bipartisan Corker-Warner proposal, now making the rounds on Capitol Hill, aims to dissolve the GSEs and start fresh. Meanwhile, Fannie and Freddie are testing innovative mortgage-security structures that transfer the risk of borrower defaults to the private sector.

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Beware the Dangerous Stretch for Yield

The US Federal Reserve talked in early summer about tapering its quantitative easing plan and raising interest rates—in part to stop investors from chasing yield into the arms of riskier loans. In the high-yield market, however, the conversation had exactly the opposite effect.

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With Rates Going Up, Give Bonds Some Credit

After the bond market’s stumble last quarter, defending against rising rates has moved front and center for many investors. One approach that has been effective over time has been exposure to credit-oriented sectors and strategies.

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Concerned About Rising Rates? Add Ballast by Going Global

A US-only bond investor is affected by one business cycle, one yield curve and a single monetary policy. As long as rates were falling, that seemed like a good thing. Not so these days.

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