With so many options in the short duration space many investors may be left wondering where to invest. As always, it comes down to what risks you are willing to take on in an attempt to pick up yield. For short duration funds that means how much interest rate risk and how much credit risk you are comfortable with. Here is one way to group the above funds and make a little more sense out of them:
Treasury Funds: SHV and SHY. These funds invest in U.S. Treasuries which do not have credit risk. An investor can choose the specific fund that fits with their interest rate risk sensitivity.
Credit Funds: FLOT, CSJ, and SLQD. These funds invest in bonds from corporations and other issuers. These issuers carry some risk of default, and so an investor can expect additional yield relative to U.S. Treasuries. Again an investor can pick the level of interest rate sensitivity they want, with FLOT being the least interest rate sensitive.
Term Maturity Funds: IBDA and IBCB. These funds also invest in credit bonds. The difference is that these funds actually mature on a pre-determined date. This makes them popular with investors who are concerned about rising interest rates or who historically ladder individual bonds.
Multi-Sector Funds: NEAR, ISTB, and the new ICSH. These funds invest in multiple sectors across the short duration market. ICSH broadens the options available here by offering a fund that has less interest rate risk than either NEAR or ISTB.
Hopefully this helps you in navigating the short duration market. If 2014 is the year you want to step out of cash, ICSH – or one of the many other short duration bond ETFs out there – could be just what you need to finally toe dip back into the market.