Ivy VIP Corporate Bond

Ivy VIP Corporate Bond
06.30.18

Market Sector Update

  • Market volatility continued in the second quarter as U.S. Treasury yields continued their climb higher, and returns on spread products widened. The 2-year note rose 26 basis points in the quarter to 2.53% and the 10-year note rose 12 basis points to 2.86%.
  • The yield on the 10-year note reached a seven-year high of 3.13% in mid-May, following a hawkish speech by John Williams, who has since moved from the position as President of the San Francisco Federal Reserve (Fed) to his current role as the President of the New York Fed. He is now a more significant player on the monetary policy stage, because the New York Fed President is a permanent voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee. That yield above 3% proved fleeting, as just days later the U.S. Treasury market enjoyed a huge flight-to-quality rally centered on worries about Italy, dropping the 10-year yield to 2.78%. While the trend has certainly been for yields to rise, they have been doing so in a roller coaster fashion.
  • The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond Index, a gauge of domestic investment grade credit and a subset of the Portfolio's benchmark, posted its worst half-year return (-3.19%) since the first half of 2013. Not only was the investment grade credit’s absolute performance ugly, its relative performance was also bad. Investment grade credit spreads are 31 basis points wider in the first six months of 2018, while high yield spreads are only 12 basis points wider and the S&P 500 index is up for the year. Most believe this is technically due to decreased demand for credit products, rather than a predictor of an economic downturn.

Portfolio Strategy

  • We focused this past quarter on improving the quality of the Portfolio. We reduced BBB- and BB-rated holdings and increased our allocation of AA- and A-rated bonds.
  • The Portfolio’s duration is about 85% of the benchmark, the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Credit Index. We have a large underweight in longer duration credit, as we feel there has not been a good risk/reward proposition on the long end of the curve. We feel there will be better opportunities to add duration to the Portfolio in the months to come.

Outlook

  • The Fed hiked rates for the seventh time in this cycle in June. It came as no surprise. Most believe there will be at least one more hike and probably two hikes before year-end. The big unknown right now is trade, and how the tariffs and tweets and rhetoric between the U.S. and our trading partners will play out. Whether or not growth is impeded both domestically and globally may determine whether the Fed may need to slow down their expected pace of rate hikes.
  • The yield curve, the difference between the yield on the 10-year note and the 2-year note has been flattening for some time and finished the quarter at 33 basis points. This has also been causing some concern. Continued rate hikes should cause continued flattening of the curve. An inverted yield curve (where two-year yields are higher than 10-year yields) generally precedes a recession by anywhere from six to 24 months. Right now, however, things look good. Company profits are doing well. The labor market is strong. Unemployment is low. Inflation is not an issue. We will keep monitoring the data for changes, but recession appears to be beyond the horizon.

The opinions expressed are those of the Portfolio’s managers and are not meant as investment advice or to predict or project the future performance of any investment product. The opinions are current through June 30, 2018, are subject to change at any time based on market and other current conditions, and no forecasts can be guaranteed. This commentary is being provided as a general source of information and is not intended as a recommendation to purchase, sell, or hold any specific security or to engage in any investment strategy. Investment decisions should always be made based on an investor’s specific objectives, financial needs, risk tolerance and time horizon. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

The Ivy VIP Bond portfolio was renamed Ivy VIP Corporate Bond on April 30, 2018.

The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Credit Index is composed of all publicly issued, fixed-rate, nonconvertible, investment-grade corporate debt. Issues are rated at least Baa by Moody's Investors Service or BBB by Standard & Poor's, if unrated by Moody's. Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) are not included. The Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond Index measures the investment grade, fixed-rate, taxable corporate bond market. It includes U.S. dollar denominated securities publicly issued by U.S. and non-U.S. industrial, utility and financial issuers. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

Duration is a measure of a security's price sensitivity to changes in interest rates. A portfolio with a longer average duration generally can be expected to be more sensitive to interest rate changes than a portfolio with a shorter average duration.

Rick Perry served as a portfolio manager on the Portfolio until April 12, 2018.

Risk factors: The value of the Portfolio's shares will change, and you could lose money on your investment. An investment in the Portfolio is not a bank deposit and is not insured or guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or any other government agency. Fixed income securities are subject to interest rate risk and, as such, the net asset value of the fund may fall as interest rates rise. Investing in below investment grade securities may carry a greater risk of nonpayment of interest or principal than higher-rated bonds. These and other risks are more fully described in the Portfolio's prospectus. Not all funds or fund classes may be offered at all broker/ dealers.

Annuities are long-term financial products designed for retirement purposes. Annuity and life insurance guarantees are based on the financial strength and claims-paying ability of the issuing insurance company. The guarantees have no bearing on the performance of a variable investment option. Variable investment options are subject to market risk, including loss of principal. There are charges and expenses associated with annuities and variable life insurance products, including mortality and expense risk charges, management fees, administrative fees, expenses for optional riders and deferred sales charges for early withdrawals. Withdrawals before age 59 1/2 may be subject to a 10% IRS tax penalty and surrender charges may apply.