Rising Geopolitical Tension Lifts Foreign Bond ETFs

Stocks, real estate securities, and high-yield bonds took a hit last week as saber-rattling between the US and North Korea triggered a moderate round of de-risking.


By James Picerno

The leading beneficiary from last week’s push into safe havens: foreign government bonds in developed markets ex-US. This slice of fixed income posted the biggest gain among the major asset classes for the five trading days through Aug. 14, based on a set of exchange-traded products. The biggest loser: US real estate investment trusts (REITs).

SPDR Bloomberg Barclays International Treasury Bond (BWX) gained the most last week, closing near its highest level so far this year. A weaker dollar continued to be a tailwind as the US Dollar Index (USD) edged lower last week. Year to date, USD is off 10%, as of Aug. 11.

Last week’s bottom performer: Vanguard REIT (VNQ), which shed 2.2%. VNQ has been trading in a narrow band this year and the latest dip leaves the ETF at a middling range relative to 2017 prices.

For the trailing one-year results, foreign stocks in developed markets hold the top spot. Vanguard FTSE Developed Markets (VEA) is ahead by 14.8%. Recent history for the ETF, however, has been rough. VEA fell last week, marking the fund’s fourth-straight weekly decline.

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Meantime, US REITs continue to post the deepest one-year loss among the major asset classes. VNQ is down 4.5% over the past 12 months. The ETF’s rolling one-year performance has been consistently negative since late-June.