The Wall Street Journal recently published an article titled How You Can Survive a New Era in the Bond Market. The article suggests that investors adjust their bond allocations to tilt more towards high-yield (aka junk) bonds (both corporate and municipal) and global bonds, which tend to yield more than U.S. bonds. This advice resonates with an Op Ed by Burton Malkiel, famed author of A Random Walk Down Wall Street, at the end of 2013.
The case against bonds is straightforward. The best estimate for the expected future return from bonds is their current yield. If you hold a bond until maturity, your total return will be very close to the current yield. There are nuances to this rule. With high-yield bonds, you should expect a total return that is a bit less than the current yield due to the fact that some of these bonds will probably end in default. With bond funds, you don’t necessarily end up holding individual bonds until maturity, so the correspondence between current yield and expected return is a bit weaker. Nonetheless, with current yields as low as they are, bond investors should not expect attractive returns from most bond classes.
The financial media loves a catch phrase and, with the apparent emotional hook of the ‘fiscal cliff’ diminished, we needed a new one. The current best candidate is the so-called ‘Great Rotation.’ The idea here is that investors, finally and completely fed up with the dismal returns from bonds, are going to move heavily back into equities. This is the ‘Great Rotation.’ When I Google the term, there are 820,000 search results. Not bad for a phrase that was invented in October 2012 (in a research note from Bank of America, apparently). Continue reading →
One of the most important questions for investors and advisors is identifying a set of asset classes that will be considered for inclusion in a portfolio. Some people will decide that all they need or want is one broad stock market index fund and one bond fund. Others will choose to include Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and commodities. There are well-thought-out arguments that inflation-protected government bonds (TIPS) are a major core asset class. It is also quite common for investors or advisors to break stocks out into value vs. growth and small cap vs. large cap. Continue reading →
Municipal bonds are issued by states and municipalities and typically have tax advantages relative to other fixed income assets. In general, income from muni bonds is tax exempt at the federal level and at the state level for investors living in the issuing state. Municipal bonds have historically been favored by investors in high tax brackets who, of course, derive more benefit from the tax exemptions by virtue of being in the highest tax brackets. Continue reading →