Global Fixed Income: Performance Review | 06 Feb 2014 noted earlier this week that “bonds are suddenly the hot investment.” Barron’s offered a similar analysis a few days earlier: “Bond prices have surged so far this, defying conventional expectations.” But deciding if the bond market is “hot” relies rather heavily on your definition of the asset class and choice of time period.

In any case, the perceived revival in fixed income inspires a fresh look at the broad set of bond ETFs from a global perspective. Are we on the cusp of a new bull run in bonds that’s fueled by rising fears of economic turbulence? That’s the forecast from some analysts, but for the moment it’s not obvious that the recent upturn is a widespread affair.

Let’s start with US bonds. Junk is still the performance king, based on the trailing 250-day return (a proxy for 1-year return): SPDR Barclays High Yield Bond (JNK) is ahead by more than 6%. The big loser: iShares TIPS Bond (TIP), which under water by 6.3%.


Shifting to bond markets outside the US paints a similar profile. Foreign junk is in the lead: the iShares Global ex-US$ High Yield Corp Bond (HYXU) is ahead by nearly 7% for the trailing 250-day period. That’s in sharp contrast with the hefty 14.3% haircut over the same span for Market Vectors EM Local Currency Bond (EMLC).