Bond gurus across Wall Street were calling it the beginning of the bond bear market. Treasuries had dropped significantly, with yields holding over 2.5%. However, the selloff halted yesterday as reports of Chinese plans to stop buying Treasuries were reported as possibly false. A commentator from BNY Mellon explains the situation best, saying “Whether the news of Chinese withdrawal was fake or not, the Treasury market is likely to continue to feel a little fragile, but the fact remains that the hunt for yield goes on and with no real signs of inflation yet and improving growth, there are still no real sellers out there”.
FINSUM: We think that is a very eloquent summary of the current situation. We do not think it is time to be bearish yet.
Some of the biggest names in bonds are making a bold proclamation that all investors need to hear—that the 30-year bond bull market is over. Both Bill Gross and Jeffrey Gundlach are saying that with Treasury yields rising—currently sitting about 2.5% on ten-years—the bond market has entered a new phase. Gundlach says we are entering an era of “quantitative tightening”, which will cause losses for bonds. Gross says the bear market was confirmed when 5y and 10y Treasuries crossed 25y trend lines recently.
FINSUM: We may very well be entering an era of tightening, but that does not mean it will necessary be a brutal bear market, especially with the demographically-driven demand for bonds. Additionally, with the economy going very well, a recession could be coming, which would ease the tightening.
With stocks riding so high and anxiety building about a potential downturn, espousing and building a robust bond strategy is going to be more important than ever. With that in mind Barron’s has put out four bond funds picks for 2018. The picks are the Vanguard Tax-Exempt Bond Index, the Artisan High Income fund, the Prudential Short Duration Muni High Income, and the Dodge & Cox Global Bond.
FINSUM: The Vanguard fund really caught our eye. It has an expense ratio of 0.19% versus an average of 0.8% for its peers, and has more than $190 bn under management, with a lot of expertise managing it.
Most people talk about retail investors’ effect on the stock market, especially when things get bad. But what is much less understood is their role in the bond market. Individual bond buyers are growing force in the bond market and are one of the major factors that has kept bond yields low. The proportion of the US population 65 or older has grown 40% since 2000 and is set to keep growing. Retirees typically buy more bonds as they near retirement, which should keep downward pressure on yields.
FINSUM: So admittedly this WSJ article we discuss absolutely supports the arguments we have been making to our readers for many months. We are not bearish on bonds, despite a lot of comments to the contrary, because there is such a big demographically-driven source of demand.