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Perspectives /

The Sum and the Parts

Phil McInnis Phil McInnis


Olivian Pitis, CFA, CFP® and AIFA® Olivian Pitis, CFA, CFP® and AIFA®


The Effects of Fixed Income Composition in Various Asset Allocations

While many decisions go into structuring an equity allocation, from an asset allocation perspective the goal for any equity allocation is growth. Fixed-income securities, on the other hand, can serve many objectives, from inflation-protected securities that help provide a hedge against unexpected inflation runs to municipal securities that allow for tax benefits to taxable investors. This variety of characteristics often raises the question about the optimal fixed-income allocation for asset allocations with high and low equity exposure.

Within fixed income, we have observable characteristics that provide information about differences in expected returns. For example, fixed-income securities with lower credit worthiness present an expected return premium over higher-quality securities, which can be considered when attempting to capture higher expected returns in well-diversified portfolios. An interesting development in fixed income markets is the reduction of corporate issuers with the highest credit quality rating (AAA/AA) in the investment-grade universe.

This limitation in the universe of top-quality issuers presents a challenge for investors looking for low-risk portfolios, because constraining the universe to top-quality issuers can expose them to more idiosyncratic risk versus investing in full investment-grade portfolios. Full investment-grade portfolios include those top issuers, but at lower weights, reducing the issuer-specific risks through broad diversification.

Along the maturity spectrum, there are also observable premiums. At first glance, longer-term securities tend to have higher expected returns than shorter-term securities. While this is generally the case, the picture is more complex since information in the term structure of bonds can be used to identify the durations with higher expected returns. The term structure is not unique for all bonds. Different bonds in different sectors with different credit qualities have different term structures. A careful analysis of bonds, using relevant yield curves and considering their coupon (or lack of coupon) structure, allows for better estimation of expected returns.

In this article, we review how composition differences in a fixed-income portfolio impact the overall allocation, including a simple framework for how to think about each component’s contribution to volatility.


Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Expected Return: Our philosophy is based on the idea that paying less for an expected stream of cash flows or the equity of a company should produce higher expected returns. Our systematic, repeatable and cost-efficient process uniquely designed for Avantis Investors is actively implemented to deliver diversified portfolios expected to harness those higher expected returns.

Diversification does not assure a profit, nor does it protect against loss of principal. This material has been prepared for educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide, and should not be relied upon for, investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

The opinions expressed are those of the investment portfolio team and are no guarantee of the future performance of any Avantis Investors portfolio. This information is not intended as a personalized recommendation or fiduciary advice and should not be relied upon for investment, accounting, legal or tax advice.

References to specific securities are for illustrative purposes only and are not intended as recommendations to purchase or sell securities. Investment return and principal value of security investments will fluctuate. The value at the time of redemption may be more or less than the original cost. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. 


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