Print Banner

Print commentary

View printable commentary E-mail this page

This commentary is currently not available. Please check back later.

Delaware Corporate Bond Fund Quarterly commentary June 30, 2015


During the second quarter of 2015, fixed income markets experienced significant setbacks as rates rose across the yield curve and spreads widened in several key sectors. Intermediate and long maturities led the rate rise as liquidity became a problem. With regulatory blockages, a shrinking repo market, smaller capital commitments at many key trading counterparties, and ongoing market volatility, liquidity will likely continue to be a periodic challenge. Past experience shows that liquidity-based market setbacks tend to be sharp but brief without the sustained impact of deteriorating fundamentals. During the quarter, the Federal Reserve pointed to slightly more upbeat growth conditions and relatively balanced risks while seemingly heading toward an initial rate increase in the second half of 2015. This “most likely” Fed scenario still seems potentially off track since it would come despite recent U.S. dollar strength, lower commodity prices, and below-target inflation statistics. Rarely has the Fed begun to tighten in the face of these factors.

While the “liftoff date” for the initial rate hike has been the policy question of the year, the trajectory of any increases is quickly becoming the more important focus. It seems highly probable that the Fed will raise rates in an unusually gradual way during its next tightening cycle. The Fed’s caution may be based on the continued struggle to break out of the “muddle along” 2%-plus recovery, but it may also be driven by its recognition that other factors have already started the tightening process, such as the stabilization of its balance sheet and the strength of the U.S. dollar. Recently, economic forecasters have begun talking about U.S. growth accelerating into the 2.0–2.5% range in the second half of 2015. If those projections turn out to be accurate, the Fed has good reason to be cautious. The Fed’s own forecasts should also be a warning, as members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) recently reduced their 2015 gross domestic product (GDP) forecast to 1.8–2.0% growth, while sticking with their 2015 inflation outlook of 0.6–0.8%.

Domestic economic indicators were mixed during the quarter. In the labor market, initial jobless claims remained below 300,000 and manufacturing activity surpassed consensus expectations. However, the weak Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) number in June raised the possibility of a loss of momentum entering into the third quarter. Conversely, consumer demand and housing statistics provided a boost in sentiment. Those positives were further supported by the U.S. Commerce Department’s revised first-quarter GDP estimate showing a 0.2% contraction (compared with the previous estimate’s 0.7% drop), perhaps supporting speculation that port delays and harsh winter weather had affected growth. Second-quarter data showed the economy expanding again, but at a pace softer than forecasters were anticipating following the winter slowdown. Supporting a cautionary tone, core inflation rose less than forecasted during the second quarter, a sign that it may take more time to meet the Fed’s inflation goal.

Although the June FOMC meeting took on a more dovish tone, the Fed nonetheless maintained its policy target range of zero to 0.25%. Also, the FOMC was more specific in describing its criteria for raising rates: “further improvement in the labor market” (even though the unemployment rate is now back to spring 2008 levels) and convincing evidence that inflation (which has been running below target) is heading back to 2%.

The Barclays U.S. Aggregate Index recorded a negative return in the second quarter as even the poor returns from Treasury securities turned out to be better than those from corporate bonds. Financials were stronger than other investment grade sectors, with utilities significantly underperforming. U.S. dollar emerging market bonds and asset-backed securities (ABS) produced modest positive returns for the period.

Within the Fund

For the second quarter of 2015, Delaware Corporate Bond Fund (Institutional Class shares and Class A shares at net asset value) outperformed its benchmark, the Barclays U.S. Corporate Investment Grade Index.

The investment grade credit market was weaker over the quarter, as the continued flood of new-issue supply fueled by merger and acquisition activity weighed on valuations. Increasing new-issue concessions caused a repricing of secondary levels, with spreads on the index widening from 129 basis points to 145 basis points, led by those health insurers and cable operators with increased event risk. (A basis point equals a hundredth of a percentage point.)

Security selection contributed to the Fund’s outperformance, enhanced by participation in the strong new-issue calendar. The recent heavy supply has come with above-average concessions, and investors have shown strong demand for those deals. An underweight to longer-dated issues within the electric utility space also benefited Fund performance, as the Treasury curve steepened over the quarter.

From a duration standpoint, our overweight to the intermediate segment or the “belly” of the curve — and a corresponding underweight to the long end — benefited Fund performance as domestic and global disinflationary pressures eased, which drove a “bear steepening” in the Treasury yield curve. We continued to use interest rate futures to manage curve and overall portfolio duration deviations relative to the index.

High yield represented an average of about 13% of the Fund’s portfolio for the period. The sector outperformed the overall benchmark and also proved beneficial for relative performance as the allocation was less sensitive to interest rate moves. Performance was strongest in B-rated securities, which generated positive returns.


Our broad investment concern is the current disconnect between below-trend global economic growth and the quantitative easing–induced rise in financial asset values. Though the ultimate reconnection will most likely come through a sharp decline in asset values (fundamentals will prevail), predicting its timing is beyond difficult and carries its own risks. While bond markets will certainly feel the adjustment, stock markets will probably be at the center of the move.

Interestingly, a number of “outside the box” market factors are warning that this decline in asset values could come in the near future. In no particular order, U.S. equity markets have recently seen a meaningful reduction in the level of new highs while an old — but frequently worthy — indicator shows that the Dow Jones Industrial Average recently reached new highs while transports were making new lows. “Confirmation” is critical in momentum-based markets and now may be waning. Also, while the Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index has sustained an almost 20% pullback after a historic rally, the Japanese yen recently broke through key support and could be headed to much weaker levels. The connection here, of course, is that economic growth in China (and Asia as a whole) would be hurt by a further sharp decline in the yen. Finally, despite the apparent bounce in U.S. economic statistics over the past two months, a “relative to expectations” statistic, the Citigroup Economic Surprise Index, is pointing to weakness in U.S. data. In this very uncertain and volatile market environment, our goal is to position client portfolios with prudent levels of risk — levels that are reasonable and sustainable during market dislocations so that we can respond to market setbacks not by panic selling, but by opportunistic buying. .

The Barclays U.S. Aggregate Index is a broad composite that tracks the investment grade domestic bond market.

The Purchasing Managers’ Index or PMI, published by Markit Group, measures the health of the manufacturing sector.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average is an often-quoted market indicator that comprises 30 widely held blue-chip stocks.

The Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index tracks the daily price performance of all A-shares and B-shares listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.

The Citigroup Economic Surprise Index is a rolling measure of beats and misses of indicators relative to consensus expectations.


The views expressed represent the Manager's assessment of the Fund and market environment as of the date indicated, and should not be considered a recommendation to buy, hold, or sell any security, and should not be relied on as research or investment advice. Information is as of the date indicated and subject to change.

Document must be used in its entirety.


The performance quoted represents past performance and does not guarantee future results. Investment return and principal value of an investment will fluctuate so that shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their 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 calling 800 523-1918 or visiting

Total returns may reflect waivers and/or expense reimbursements by the manager and/or distributor for some or all of the periods shown. Performance would have been lower without such waivers and reimbursements.

Average annual total return as of quarter-end (09/30/2015)
YTD1 year3 year5 year10 yearLifetimeInception
Class A (NAV)-0.94%-1.01%-0.85%2.44%5.11%6.49%6.73%09/15/1998
Class A (at offer)-5.34%n/a-5.25%0.87%4.16%6.00%6.44%
Institutional Class shares-0.88%-0.83%-0.60%2.70%5.37%6.76%7.00%09/15/1998

Returns for less than one year are not annualized.

Class A shares have a maximum up-front sales charge of 4.50% and are subject to an annual distribution fee.

Index performance returns do not reflect any management fees, transaction costs, or expenses. Indices are unmanaged and one cannot invest directly in an index.

Barclays U.S. Corporate Investment Grade Index (view definition)

Expense ratio
Class A (Gross)0.95%
Class A (Net)0.94%
Institutional Class shares (Gross)0.70%
Institutional Class shares (Net)0.69%

Net expense ratio reflects a contractual waiver of certain fees and/or expense reimbursements from Nov. 28, 2014 through Nov. 30, 2015. Please see the fee table in the Fund's prospectus for more information.

Institutional Class shares are only available to certain investors. See the prospectus for more information. 

All third-party marks cited are the property of their respective owners.

Carefully consider the Fund’s investment objectives, risk factors, charges, and expenses before investing. This and other information can be found in the Fund’s prospectus and its summary prospectus, which may be obtained by clicking the prospectus link located in the right-hand sidebar or calling 800 523-1918. Investors should read the prospectus and the summary prospectus carefully before investing.

Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.

Fixed income securities and bond funds can lose value, and investors can lose principal, as interest rates rise. They also may be affected by economic conditions that hinder an issuer’s ability to make interest and principal payments on its debt.

The Fund may also be subject to prepayment risk, the risk that the principal of a fixed income security that is held by the Fund may be prepaid prior to maturity, potentially forcing the Fund to reinvest that money at a lower interest rate.

International investments entail risks not ordinarily associated with U.S. investments including fluctuation in currency values, differences in accounting principles, or economic or political instability in other nations.

Investing in emerging markets can be riskier than investing in established foreign markets due to increased volatility and lower trading volume.

High yielding, noninvestment grade bonds (junk bonds) involve higher risk than investment grade bonds.

The Fund may invest in derivatives, which may involve additional expenses and are subject to risk, including the risk that an underlying security or securities index moves in the opposite direction from what the portfolio manager anticipated. A derivative transaction depends upon the counterparties’ ability to fulfill their contractual obligations.

All third-party marks cited are the property of their respective owners.

Not FDIC Insured | No Bank Guarantee | May Lose Value