Kip 25

Vanguard Short-Term Investment-Grade Keeps It Short and Sweet

This member of the Kiplinger 25 focuses on debt with one- to five-year maturities, making it less sensitive to interest-rate shifts.

Rising interest rates have squelched returns in the broad bond market—when interest rates rise, bond prices fall. But Vanguard Short-Term Investment-Grade (symbol VFSTX) focuses on debt with one- to five-year maturities, which makes it less sensitive to interest-rate shifts. That’s partly why the fund’s 4.2% return over the past 12 months beat the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond index. Short-Term Investment-Grade, a member of the Kiplinger 25, beat its bogey, the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Government/Credit 1-5 Year index, over the past year, too.

Nimble moves by lead manager Arvind Narayanan also helped. Heading into 2020, Narayanan, who runs the fund with Daniel Shaykevich and Samuel Martinez, shed some corporate bond holdings—he viewed them as “rich,” he says—and scooped up less-risky mortgage-backed securities instead. That conservative positioning paid off in the spring of 2020 as bond prices sold off amid COVID fears. Corporate bonds suffered more than mortgage debt did, and that created opportunity. The managers then “recycled back,” as Narayanan says, into high-quality corporate debt, just as a rally in those securities began last summer.

Narayanan and his team are positioning the fund now for a strong economy and the potential for higher inflation and rising interest rates. The fund still holds corporate debt, but now that bet is more focused on low-quality investment-grade debt (rated triple-B) and high-quality high-yield debt (rated double-B). They also like consumer-oriented asset-backed securities, such as auto loans. To compensate for the extra risk, the fund holds more cash and short-term Treasuries—12% of the fund’s assets—than usual. It also means the managers can be “opportunistic” if the option arises, he adds.

Narayanan is still relatively new to the fund, but he has 20 years of experience in the bond market. And he’s got his eye on the ball. “The fund’s use case … is to provide a reliable source of income with some price appreciation and to help protect investors from large drawdowns,” he says. Since he joined in late 2019, the fund has gained 3.8% annualized, which beats its peers (short-term bond funds). The fund yields 0.85%.

Most Popular

Your Guide to Roth Conversions
Special Report
Tax Breaks

Your Guide to Roth Conversions

A Kiplinger Special Report
February 25, 2021
You Can Appeal a Medicare Premium Surcharge
Medicare

You Can Appeal a Medicare Premium Surcharge

If you meet one of the seven qualifying life events, you have a good chance of getting a higher premium for Medicare Part B and Part D reduced.
June 16, 2021
12 Housing Stocks to Ride the Red-Hot Market
investing

12 Housing Stocks to Ride the Red-Hot Market

The U.S. has a housing shortage and a love affair with home improvement, both of which could create tailwinds for this group of housing stocks.
June 8, 2021

Recommended

5 Best Mutual Funds to Fight Inflation
mutual funds

5 Best Mutual Funds to Fight Inflation

These five mutual funds cover a wide variety of asset classes, but they share a similar trait: They're effective hedges against inflation.
June 18, 2021
Vanguard Money Market Funds: What You Need to Know
investing

Vanguard Money Market Funds: What You Need to Know

Vanguard money market funds are a notable asset storage tool. Here, we break down what you need to know about the firm's six offerings.
June 9, 2021
Principal Healthcare Innovators: Earnings Not Wanted
Becoming an Investor

Principal Healthcare Innovators: Earnings Not Wanted

This stock fund uses "counterintuitive" criteria to target small and midsize healthcare companies focused on innovation.
May 27, 2021
Midyear Investing Outlook: Where to Invest Now
Kiplinger's Investing Outlook

Midyear Investing Outlook: Where to Invest Now

After a powerful start, stocks will grind higher in the second half of 2021. But watch out for curveballs.
May 23, 2021