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Bond Investors Should Stay Calm Despite Negative Returns


The recent negative returns in the bond market may bring back unpleasant memories for investors. However, those who own Treasury debt issued at higher yields in 2023 have reason to remain optimistic.

According to Ryan Murphy, the director of fixed-income business development at Capital Group, the current situation is a common concern among investors. After experiencing the worst bond market in 40 years last year, many investors feel exhausted and discouraged.

Murphy reassures clients that returns in bonds are earned over time. Although bond returns have been decreasing since January, he advises investors to take a deep breath and trust that things will eventually improve.

Capital Group’s approach, characterized by its laid-back style and lack of a star CEO, has earned it recognition as “a new bond leader” by Institutional Investor. Over the past five years, the company has attracted $100 billion in funds, twice the amount of its competitors.

The recent volatility in interest rates has again impacted yearly gains in bond funds. Federal Reserve officials have warned that a strong labor market and robust spending could cause inflation to remain above the central bank’s 2% target.

The increase in long-term bond yields has made lower-yielding securities appear less attractive. As a result, the Bloomberg U.S. government bond and note index recorded negative returns for the first time since March. This was during a period when fears of a broader banking crisis emerged after several regional banks failed.

However, if we look back at August 2022, the 10-year Treasury yield started at around 2.6%, according to FactSet. In contrast, Treasury bill yields reached nearly 5.5%, which is the highest we have seen in the past 15 years.

For investors seeking longer-term yields, the 10-year Treasury rate hit 4.307% on Thursday, its highest level since November 2007. This information is based on data from Dow Jones Market Data.

Additional Perspective

If you’re interested in BlackRock’s perspective on navigating the challenging bond market, you may want to read about Rick Rieder’s strategies for managing his active fixed-income ETF. Despite the struggles faced by bond funds, Rieder provides valuable insights on how to steer through these difficulties.

The Impact of Rising Interest Rates on Government and Companies

The rapid increase in interest rates is causing a financial burden for the government and companies, according to experts in the field. The drag of higher long-term interest rates is making it more expensive for these entities to finance their debt. This change is significant and has led to some challenges.

However, on the flip side, this period has proven to be beneficial for lenders and bond investors. They have been able to profit from acting as creditors, experiencing success comparable to the 2007-2008 global financial crisis. It’s worth noting that this prosperity has occurred without a U.S. recession, at least not yet.

The Federal Reserve has taken a different approach this year compared to last year. They have already increased interest rates to a 22-year high of 5.25%-5.5% in July. Additionally, they have indicated that they are approaching the end of interest rate hikes in this economic cycle.

A Cash Stabilizer for Markets

One potential stabilizer for the markets is the substantial amount of cash on the sidelines. Money-market funds hold a record amount of assets, with a total of $5.57 trillion reported for the week ending on Wednesday, as stated by data from the Investment Company Institute.

It is interesting to observe that there have been two waves of investors putting their money into money-market funds. The first surge occurred at the onset of the COVID pandemic, and another wave has emerged over the past 12-18 months due to the rate-hiking cycle. These inflows of cash have contributed to the impressive growth of money-market assets.

A Look Back at 2008

In comparison to the financial crisis in 2008, there are similarities regarding the buildup and subsequent decrease in money-market assets. Following the recovery from the crisis, approximately $1.1 trillion left this sector as financial assets began to regain stability. However, a significant portion of that cash found its way back into fixed-income investments in the following years, demonstrating a positive trend.

Market Performance

Stocks closed lower on Thursday and are heading towards another week of losses. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) is currently down 2.3% for the week so far, the S&P 500 index (SPX) has decreased by 2.1%, and the Nasdaq Composite Index has dropped by 2.4%, according to FactSet data.

In conclusion, the rise in interest rates is presenting challenges for the government and companies related to debt financing. On the other hand, lenders and bond investors have been thriving. The Federal Reserve has already implemented significant interest rate hikes and is expected to conclude this current cycle soon. The record amount of cash held in money-market funds is acting as a stabilizing factor for the markets. Reflecting on past experiences, it is clear that a considerable portion of cash tends to move back into fixed-income investments when financial assets recover. As for the current market performance, stocks have been experiencing losses this week across various indices.

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