Displaying items by tag: bonds
There has been a lot of talk about stocks this year, and a great deal of consternation about rates and bond prices. Yet despite all this, or maybe because of it, a middle-ground asset class has become one of the best performing of the year. Convertible securities are having a banner year. The $325 bn sector has returned over 36% through the end of November. A big portion of the gains has come from the outperformance of Tesla, which accounts for about 10% of the convertibles market. But there have been other nice victories too, such as “reopening” stocks like Carnival, Southwest Airlines, Lyft, American Airlines, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
FINSUM: Converts do a good job capturing upside while protecting against upside, and this year has been a perfect storm for them.
The market has been extremely volatile this year and that has put many investors on edge, especially those nearing retirement who need to rely on their portfolios for regular income. Treasury yields have gotten so low that they are not a good source of yield. So where to turn? One option is fixed annuities, also called multi-year guaranteed annuities. In contrast to fixed-index annuities or equity-index annuities, the return on MYGAs is not tied to an index. Such MYGAs are currently offering spreads of as much as 300 bp over Treasuries, representing a strong opportunity for those who need guaranteed income.
FINSUM: Two things to bear in mind when considering these—they are generally quite illiquid as the money is “locked up”, and secondly, they do have default risk but often can have limited losses because of state guaranty associations.
The yield environment is a terrible one for anyone who is seeking income from their investments, especially those in retirement who may be living on a fixed income. So where can investors seek strong domestic yields? Check out mortgage REITs. Mortgage REITs have long offered some of the highest yields in markets because of the leverage they utilize. Most of the group have yields over 10%. Look at the following names as an example: AGNC Investment Corp. (AGNC, yield 10.2%), Annaly Capital Management, Inc (NLY, 12.9%), Anworth Mortgage Asset Corporation (NH, 14%), and Armour Residential REIT (ARR, 12.3%).
FINSUM: So obviously mortgage REITs have significant interest rate risk, but can you imagine a period where interests rates seem less likely to rise?
Investors need to keep a very sharp eye on the bond market. The yield curve is steepening without any associated rise in economic activity. The reason why has to do with the election. Biden has been rising in the polls, and investors have been increasingly betting he will emerge victorious as part of a blue sweep. If that happens, it is assumed the US would issue a great deal more debt to fund stimulus packages. This means there would be significantly more Treasury bond supply than at present, and potentially calls into question the credit of the US government. As evidence of this trend, the spread between 5- and 30-year Treasuries just hit its largest since 2016.
FINSUM: This is a potential black swan event that no one has seen coming. The election seemed like it would be a dead heat through election day, but if the needle moves more towards Biden, the whole picture for fixed income will change.
The fixed income market used to be where you went for safety and steady income. Those days seem long ago, and fixed income is not just as likely as any other asset class to eb the riskiest and most volatile in your portfolio. Between COVID and the Fed, interest rates are extremely low, with yields low and bond price very high, and vulnerable. Some have been comparing the situation to Japan in the 1990s and beyond, but there is a huge difference that makes the US bond market much worse than Japan ever was—inflation. When Japan started its massive zero rate, ultra-low yield period, it was experiencing deflation, which meant there was still a positive real rate. But that is not true in the US today, as yields are actually well below real-world inflation, meaning genuinely negative real interest rates.
FINSUM: There is ultimately going to have to be a reckoning in the bond market, because real returns are not sustainable. That said, it does not seem like the Fed is going to let that happen any time soon.