Treasury Floating Rate Notes: Don’t Overtax Yourself

Head of Fixed Income Strategy
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The fixed income landscape continues to wrestle with the potential for more interest rate risk. A debate has begun to emerge around the fate of the U.S. Treasury (UST) 10-Year yield. Indeed, some market participants continue to expect another round to the upside, while a separate camp feels the worst could be over. I’m not going down either road in this blog post. Rather, I’d like to settle on the rate risk aspect that does not seem to be up for much debate: the Federal Reserve (Fed) will likely continue on its gradual hiking path.


Against this backdrop, investors may wish to continue considering Treasury floating rate notes (FRNs). Because these securities are referenced to the Treasury’s weekly three-month t-bill auction, they offer investors a means to insulate their portfolios from potential Fed rate hikes. Given the Fed’s guidance and market outlook for additional increases in the Federal Funds Rate in 2018 and 2019, some “Fed protection” seems warranted.


We have previously highlighted the benefits of Treasury FRNs in various blog posts from a rate perspective, but are there other benefits worth noting? One aspect to Treasuries that tends to get overlooked is that interest income is exempt from state and local taxes. This exemption also applies to FRNs.


Typically, investors do take tax considerations into their investment process. The recent Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 may heighten this awareness because the changes included in this legislation will be brought to the fore for the upcoming 2018 tax season. Specifically, the caps on deductions for state and local income taxes, as well as mortgage interest, may create a different environment than investors previously had been used to. As a result, investments with a tax advantage may be an important part of future portfolio construction.




How can Treasury FRNs help a fixed income portfolio for this potentially changing investment landscape? As the Fed raises rates, the rate hike is reflected in the weekly three-month t-bill auction, and by extension the UST FRN. This not only offers investors a rate hedge for their portfolios but also provides the opportunity for higher-yield enhancement as a result of the Fed’s tightening moves, with essentially no duration risk. By utilizing the Treasury FRN space, investors have the potential to not only employ “Fed protection” but also potentially add a “tax-advantaged” element to it. The WisdomTree Floating Rate Treasury Fund (USFR), is a solution that seeks to track UST FRNs, with the character of the aforementioned tax exemption getting passed through to shareholders.



Important Risks Related to this Article

There are risks associated with investing, including possible loss of principal. Securities with floating rates can be less sensitive to interest rate changes than securities with fixed interest rates but may decline in value. The issuance of floating rate notes by the U.S. Treasury is new and the amount of supply will be limited. Fixed income securities will normally decline in value as interest rates rise. The value of an investment in the Fund may change quickly and without warning in response to issuer or counterparty defaults and changes in the credit ratings of the Fund’s portfolio investments. Due to the investment strategy of this Fund, it may make higher capital gain distributions than other ETFs. Please read the Fund’s prospectus for specific details regarding the Fund’s risk profile.


Neither WisdomTree Investments, Inc., nor its affiliates, nor Foreside Fund Services, LLC, or its affiliates provide tax advice. All references to tax matters or information provided in this material are for illustrative purposes only and should not be considered tax advice and cannot be used for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties. Investors seeking tax advice should consult an independent tax advisor.

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About the Contributor
Head of Fixed Income Strategy
Follow Kevin Flanagan
As part of WisdomTree’s Investment Strategy group, Kevin serves as Head of Fixed Income Strategy. In this role, he contributes to the asset allocation team, writes fixed income-related content and travels with the sales team, conducting client-facing meetings and providing expertise on WisdomTree’s existing and future bond ETFs. In addition, Kevin works closely with the fixed income team. Prior to joining WisdomTree, Kevin spent 30 years at Morgan Stanley, where he was Managing Director and Chief Fixed Income Strategist for Wealth Management. He was responsible for tactical and strategic recommendations and created asset allocation models for fixed income securities. He was a contributor to the Morgan Stanley Wealth Management Global Investment Committee, primary author of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management’s monthly and weekly fixed income publications, and collaborated with the firm’s Research and Consulting Group Divisions to build ETF and fund manager asset allocation models. Kevin has an MBA from Pace University’s Lubin Graduate School of Business, and a B.S in Finance from Fairfield University.