Bonds

Decent Bond Yields: In 5 Years

Will interest rates ever return to a level where they provide a decent return? Sure, in about five years. In the meantime, that leaves fixed-income investors scrambling.

Many investors watch the daily close of major stock indexes as an indicator as to where market winds are blowing. It also pays to watch the direction of interest rates as a portent of trends. Interest rates are likely to remain constrained. For asset allocators, that bodes positives and negatives as they evaluate various asset classes.

The Fed’s Monetary Misfires

For decades, the Federal Reserve has manipulated the money supply, often in response to political concerns. The better policy would be for it to adjust monetary policy using a simple formula based on movements of inflation and economic growth.

Surprise Boon for Bondholders

The drop in interest rates this year is a surprise. But it is good for bondholders because bond prices are up and they have more time to get ready for the inevitable rate hikes.

Not that long ago, it was 2013 and expectations were different. While only five short months have passed, what a change of seasons we’ve had in the bond market.

ECB: All Talk, No Action

The European Central Bank keeps talking about the stimulus it will take to get the economically sluggish Continent moving again. Trouble is, it never follows up with action. All it does is talk about what it will do. Eventually, the ECB’s credibility will wear thin.

We’ve seen more activity in a tortoise than we’ve seen in Europe of late. Maybe Vladimir Putin needs to invade Europe just to see if the cultured continent is still functioning.

Market Signals Are Bearish

Several market signals point in a bearish direction lately. Lower Treasury yields, slumps in consumer discretionary, homebuilding and Chinese stocks, and higher expected market volatility are disquieting.

2 Problems for the Market

While the Standard & Poor’s 500 index has been in record territory for about a year, two warning signs suggest trouble ahead: a divergence between small and large stocks, and between consumer discretionary and consumer staples stocks. Should you be concerned?  

Beware of Fixed-Income Risks

As you sketch out your retirement income plan, you often hear that stocks are risky and fixed-income instruments, like bonds and certificates of deposit, are safe. That simplistic formulation ignores how devastating inflation is on fixed income.

The Impact of Rising Rates

At some point, interest rates will climb again. But that day keeps getting pushed into the future. When it does come, how will your bond and stock holdings fare? Some history may help give an answer.

Bad Bet: 10-Year Treasuries

The Federal Reserve is supposedly winding down its bond-buying stimulus program. But this so-called tapering is an illusion because it is increasingly tilting its holdings toward long-term Treasuries. As recovery and inflation pick up, that will threaten to sap the value of the Fed’s portfolio. Result for investors: Treasuries with terms of 10 years or later are a sucker’s bet.

Why the Short-Term Tumult?

While the market continues to climb slowly, it hits periodic downdrafts, often from temporary phenomena. Most people blame over-valued stocks getting their comeuppance, but there are other factors at work, ranging from tax season selling to index rebalancing to buyback pullbacks.

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