Bonds CAN’T Fall Any Lower… Or Can They?
What once was considered a “safe” investment has taken a drubbing in 2022. As of yesterday (June 06, 2022) the AGG (US Aggregate Bond Index) has fallen 10.42% 1. Just for the record, a 10% drop is recognized as an official “correction” for equities. It would be hard to disagree that a 10% loss in bonds can be viewed as a catastrophe in a conservative investment portfolio.
Today, the Federal Reserve Prime Interest Rate (aka Prime Rate) is 4% 2. That doesn’t sound that bad. Especially compared to the past 40 years. On December 19, 1980 the prime rate was a remarkable 21.5% 2. It has fallen over the past 41 years to as low as 3.25% 2. Comparatively, 4% vs 3.25% is barely a blemish on the safe and smiling face of the bond market…or is it?
Consider that interest rates historically move in the opposite direction of bond values. As interest rates fell over the past 41 years, bond values have steadily been rising. After 40+ years, bond investments have always been represented as the safe and conservative investment position. After all, it’s difficult to even remember when the last time it was this bad. It’s been since 1977 that bonds values have fallen this painfully when surging inflation and spiking gasoline prices were hurting consumers. Sound recently familiar?
The Federal Reserve (FED) is attempting to quell inflation with interest rate hikes. The FED has indicated they will continue to raise rates by .5% until inflation calms down and then they plan to raise future rate by .25% increases until they get inflation fully under control.
Until the FED navigates us out of inflation, you can expect bond values to continue to fall.
In our opinion, the day of fleeing to bonds for safety is gone, at least for the near to mid-term.
So, the likely question on everyone’s mind is, “How does one avoid more and more losses in bond investments?”
Active management is our answer.
As mentioned above, the AGG has fallen 10.42% 1. We are active managers, and our Model Fixed Income account has lost only 2.51% in 2022 through June 06, 2022. That is nearly an eight-percentage point difference between the benchmark and our returns. It’s a lot easier to recover from a negative 2.5% than from a 10% loss.
Essentially, you have three options:
1. HOLD your bond investments and hope that interest rates fall in the very near future
2. SELL your bond investments, go to cash, and endure the loss of purchasing power to the high rate of inflation
3. ACTIVELY MANAGE your bond investments to avoid further losses and capture their eventual upswing
We believe Active Management is a path that gives you the best chance for success.
If you have questions or just want to talk about your concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
1. https://www.investing.com/etfs/ishares-barclays-agg-historical-data (reset the date timeframe to 1/1/2022 through 06/06/2022 and look at the cumulative total loss of the AGG at the bottom of the data listing)
2. http://www.fedprimerate.com/wall_street_journal_prime_rate_history.htm#current (all dates are listed)