Ivy VIP High Income

Ivy VIP High Income
06.30.17

Market Sector Update

  • Fixed-income and equity markets alike advanced in the second quarter although at a slower pace than earlier in the year, as enthusiasm about the new administration’s growth proposals waned. Yields on the 10-year Treasury fell 9 basis points to end the quarter at 2.3% even with the 25 basis point rate hike delivered by the Federal Open Market Committee (Fed) on June 14th. As the yield curve continues to flatten we are now at a 145 basis point spread between the 30-year and the 2-year, which is the lowest spread since September 2016.
  • The non-investment grade credit markets continued to grind tighter. Although not quite keeping pace with the equity markets, the BofAML US HY Master II Index (BofAMLHY), the index for the Portfolio, rose 2.13% during the quarter despite falling oil prices that triggered downward price movement for high yield energy bonds.
  • As high yield bond prices moved higher, credit spreads continued to narrow (15 basis points qauter-over-quarter). The spread on the BofAMLHY ended the quarter at 377 bps. The yield on the index was 5.71%, slightly lower than the 5.9% reported for the previous quarter-end.
  • Flows into the high yield mutual fund category were negative for the quarter totaling -$1.34 billion. Outflows for high yield YTD total -$9.5 billon.

Portfolio Strategy

  • The Portfolio outperformed the benchmark (before the effects of sales charges) for the quarter. Outperformance was attributed to individual security selection within the services sector, outperformance in specific credits and a slight overweight to the leisure and media sub-sectors. Another significant contributor to performance for the quarter was the Portfolio’s underweight to energy sector. The fund carried a 5% allocation to energy at the end of the quarter while the index exposure was at 14%.
  • Higher credit quality non-investment grade bonds outperformed the past three months, which is a reversal from previous quarters. BB-rated bonds returned 2.53% and Bs climbed to 1.69%, while CCCs garnered 1.44%.
  • All of the sectors within the high yield categories were positive for the quarter with the exception of the energy sector, which priced down -1.45%. The retail sector remains under some price pressure YTD, but rebounded from the first quarter, capturing returns of almost 2%.
  • The Portfolio retains a 20.56% allocation to senior loans. The BofAMLHY does not have an allocation to loans within the index and the loans were a slight detractor to the Portfolio for the quarter even though leveraged loans returned 0.76%. Although the strategy is driven by fundamental, bottom-up research selection rather than a quality or sector bias, the Portfolio’s allocation to CCC paper and loans will allow it be less interest rate sensitive in a rising rate environment.

Outlook

  • By any historical measurements, spreads and yields are at the tight end of their respective ranges. This has been driven by extremely accommodative monetary policy and persistently low inflation. The first of these has begun to be dialed back by the Fed, albeit at a very measured pace, while the second has showed few signs of accelerating. Talk of the Fed starting to reduce its balance sheet in the near future could certainly cause some volatility in the bond markets, especially for bonds with longer maturities. The market’s response to this process will be a gauge for the Fed to consider before their next expected rate hike in December.
  • In the era of ever present demand for yield accompanied by compressing spreads and lower rates across the entire credit spectrum, there is increasing concern over risk adjusted returns. As yields on the high yield indexes and the exchange traded funds tracking them have pushed down to 5% levels, it begs the question of how much risk investors should be taking for moderate yield. We continue to believe that finding value in the high-yield market is difficult, and considerable caution is warranted in making new investments. Our flexibility to invest across the capital structure, including higher parts of the capital structure (think loans) should continue to provide benefits as we move into a less accommodative monetary environment.
  • As always, we continue to focus on our bottoms-up fundamental research and attempting to find those needles in the hay stack that we think offer compelling risk-adjusted returns.

The opinions expressed are those of the Fund’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, 2017, 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.

Diversification is an investment strategy that attempts to manage risk within your portfolio but it does not guarantee profits or protect against loss in declining markets

The BofAML U.S. HY Master II TR USD Index tracks the performance of U.S. dollar denominated below investment grade corporate debt publicly issued in the U.S. domestic market. It is not possible to invest directly in an index.

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 Portfolio 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. Loans (including loan assignments, loan participations and other loan instruments) carry other risks, including the risk of insolvency of the lending bank or other intermediary. Loans may be unsecured or not fully collateralized may be subject to restrictions on resale and sometimes trade infrequently on the secondary market. 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.