Bonds still have a big role to play in portfolios


  • With the highest interest rates in 22 years, bonds still have an important role to play in your portfolio, offering potential income, diversification, and capital preservation.
  • With higher interest rates, fixed income now offers a generational opportunity for investors.
  • 20 years after iShares launched the first bond ETFs, investors are increasingly turning to bond ETFs as a low-cost, efficient way to customize their fixed income portfolios.

After 11 rate hikes, the Fed funds rate is at its highest level in 22 years — investors are able get paid to hold fixed income investments. This higher rate environment creates a generational opportunity for bond investors.

While past returns don’t guarantee future performance, bond ETFs have historically provided ways for investors to diversify portfolios, seek income and potentially preserve capital. Still, investors may need to rethink how they’re using fixed income and the mix of bonds in their portfolios, as detailed below.


Income – What’s fixed income without the income?  Investors can use bonds to seek income as most bonds make payments, known as a coupon, to bondholders on a regular schedule. Since the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates, bonds can potentially provide more income. Depending on the asset class, bond yields have risen 3-4% with 3-month US treasuries yield 0.05% to 4.93% by July 31, 2023. High yield bonds have increased from 4.93% to 8.43% over the same time period.1

Bond Yields: Year end 2021 and July 2023

Bar chart yields on 0-3 month Treasuries, core bonds, US Treasuries, investment grade corporates.

Source: BlackRock, Bloomberg and ICE as of 7/31/2023 using the following yield to worst index yields: ICE 0-3 Month US Treasury Securities Index for 0-3 month US Treasuries, Bloomberg US Aggregate Bond Index for Core bonds, ICE U.S. Treasury Core Bond Index for US treasuries, ICE BofA US Corporate Index for Investment Grade Corporates, ICE BofAML US High Yield Constrained Index for High Yield, and J.P. Morgan EMBI Global Core Index for Emerging Market Debt.

Chart description: Bar chart yields on 0-3 month Treasuries, core bonds, US Treasuries, investment grade corporates, high yield and emerging market debt have increased from December 2021 to July 2023.

Bonds with more credit risk, such as high yield or emerging market debt, may offer even higher levels of income, or yield. Credit risk refers to the likelihood a bond issuer will make their regular payments on time.

Diversification – Keeping bonds in the mix of your investments can potentially improve your overall long-term returns. As noted above, bonds have historically provided investors a counterbalance to stocks, especially in down years. History also suggests bond performance has tended to be good following periods of weakness in bond prices — which move in opposite direction as bond yields. The average three-year annualized returns of bonds following a three-year period in which they lost money is 11.6%.2 Furthermore, bonds may potentially offer more income to buffer against future price drawdowns as the market adapts to higher interest rates and tighter financial conditions.

Capital Preservation – Bonds can be used to help preserve the value of your savings and potentially provide more yield than idle cash. Investors seeking this goal should consider their time horizon, liquidity needs and risk tolerance to any loss of capital. Shorter maturity bonds have tended to change in price less than longer maturity bonds and may be beneficial during periods of rising rates.


In July 2002, iShares launched the first bond ETFs with a Corporate Bond ETF and four Treasury ETFs. Twenty-one years later, bond ETFs have grown to $2 trillion in assets under management. We now project that bond ETFs will reach $6 trillion by 2030.

Bonds still have a big role to play in your portfolio and bond ETFs are a low cost, efficient way to access them.

Actual and projected growth of global bond ETF AUM ($B)

Chart showing the growth of assets under management in bond ETFs since they first launched 20 years ago.

BlackRock projection as of March 31, 2023. Subject to change. The figures are for illustrative purposes only and there is no guarantee the projections will come to pass.

Chart description: Chart showing the growth of assets under management in bond ETFs since they first launched 20 years ago. BlackRock projects bond ETFs will reach $6 trillion in assets by 2030 vs. $1.5 trillion as of July 2022.

Karen Veraa, CFA

Karen Veraa, CFA

Head of U.S. iShares Fixed Income Strategy

Connor Stack

Vice President, Fixed Income Product Strategy

Aaron Task

Content Specialist


The performance quoted represents past performance and does not guarantee future results. Investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when sold or redeemed, may be worth more or less than the original cost. Current performance may be lower or higher than the performance quoted. Performance data current to the most recent month end may be obtained by visiting or by clicking the fund name above.