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Update: iShares $ Treasury Bond 1-3yr UCITS ETF

US-Kurzläufer liefern Anleger etwas mehr Rendite als vergleichbare Bundesanleihen, begrenzen Verluste bei Zinssteigerungen und könnten bei einer Ausweitung der Zinsdifferenz auch auf der Währungsseite profitieren.

Jose Garcia-Zarate 26.08.2016

Rolle im Portfolio

The iShares $ Treasury Bond 1-3yr UCITS ETF offers investors exposure to the performance of the short-dated maturity segment of the US government-bond market. This exchange-traded fund can work as part of an investment portfolio with a US geographical bias or as a complement to non-US fixed-income holdings. This is a US-dollar-denominated product, so foreign-exchange considerations have to be factored in.

The ETF’s short-dated maturity bias, the high liquidity of the underlying market, and the perceived near-zero chance of a US sovereign default make this ETF a low-risk proposition to equitise US-dollar cash holdings in investment portfolios. However, investors using this ETF for such purpose should pay attention to the potential for capital losses arising from exposure to interest-rate risk. 

This ETF can also play a tactical role as a satellite holding to manage interest risk exposure of fixed-income holdings--preferably US-centric--within an investment portfolio. The ETF's focus on the short-dated segment of the curve allows for duration-shortening plays at times of rising interest rates. This would be perhaps better suited for investors with an ability to comprehensively monitor economic developments and their implications for US monetary policy.

Fundamentale Analyse

The US economy's domestic performance remains on a broad positive footing. Private consumption and business investment have improved and the housing market has strengthened. Labour market conditions have also shown consistent positive signs. All the while, inflation remains subdued; no doubt aided by the mix of falling commodity prices and a stronger US dollar.

The US Federal Reserve hiked interest rates by 0.25% in December 2015 to a range of 0.25% to 0.50%. This was supposed to herald the start of a process of policy normalisation. However, expectations for further tightening in early 2016 were swiftly pared back on account of growing downside risks to the global economy outlook. The consensus expectation is that the Fed will eventually push rates further up, although the process is likely to be administered very gradually. As a result, US interest rates should be expected to remain at very low levels for a protracted period.

All the while, the Fed retains a policy of reinvesting the proceeds from its estimated USD 2.5 trillion worth of bond holdings--both government and agency--currently in its balance sheet back into US Treasuries.

Overall, this policy stance continues to provide fundamental support to the US Treasury curve. In fact, even in a scenario more compatible with higher interest rates, the upper ceiling for US Treasury yields should remain well below precrisis levels in the mid- to long term. This would need to be factored in by investors primarily using this ETF for duration-shortening tactical purposes.


The ICE (Intercontinental Exchange) U.S. Treasury 1-3 Year Bond Index measures the performance of short-dated fixed-rate government bonds issued by the US government. (Note: From inception until late May 2016, this ETF tracked the Barclays U.S. Treasury Bond 1-3 Year Term Index). Eligible bonds must have a minimum outstanding of USD 300 million. the ICE index detracts from each bond's outstanding any amount held by the Federal Reserve so as to provide a more accurate depiction of the freely available stock of US Treasuries. The index is weighted by market capitalisation. Index values are calculated using bid prices. The index is rebalanced on a monthly basis on the last calendar day of the month. Bonds with remaining maturity below seven years are excluded from the index at rebalancing. Intramonth bond coupon income is held as nonaccruing cash and removed from the index at rebalancing.


IShares uses physical replication to track the performance of the ICE U.S. Treasury 1-3 Year Bond Index. The focus on a small maturity segment of highly liquid bonds allows iShares to easily apply statistical sampling techniques to avoid buying all of the index's constituents without compromising the fund's ability to replicate its returns. As of this review (early August 2016), the ETF's basket was made up of 37 bonds, whereas the index had 90 constituents. This ETF distributes dividends on a semiannual basis, with historical data showing a March-September payment pattern. IShares engages in securities lending with the holdings of the ETF. BlackRock acts as investment manager on behalf of iShares. The ETF can lend out up to 100% of net asset value. The average on loan for this ETF in the 12 months to the end of June 2016 was 68.5% for an annualised return of 10 basis points. Lending operations are backed by taking UCITS-approved collateral greater than the loan value and by revaluing loans and collateral on a daily basis. The collateral is held in a ringfenced account by a third-party custodian. The degree of overcollateralisation is a function of the assets provided as collateral, but typically ranges from 102.5% to 112.0%. Lending revenue is split 62.5/37.5 between the ETF and BlackRock, respectively.


The annual ongoing charge for this ETF is 0.20%. This stands at the top end of the range for ETFs offering maturity-segmented exposure to the US government-bond market. Additional costs potentially borne by investors and not included in the ongoing charge include bid-offer spreads and brokerage fees when buy/sell orders are placed for ETF shares. There are also rebalancing costs whenever the index changes composition.


IShares was quick to provide European investors with European-domiciled ETFs tracking the US Treasury market, and it managed to capture the bulk of market share in the process. As measured in assets under management, iShares remains the clear market leader for this exposure, and all competing ETFs lag substantially behind, although most come with lower charges. Among these we find Lyxor iBoxx $ Treasuries 1-3Y (physical; ongoing charge 0.07%), UBS Barclays Capital US 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (physical; 0.20%), and SPDR Barclays 1-3 Year US Treasury Bond ETF (physical; 0.15%).

Über den Autor

Jose Garcia-Zarate  is an ETF analyst with Morningstar UK.