Global Bond Funds Suffer Worst Ever Meltdown – But We Feel Fine

Just over a month ago, we pointed out that the tide was turning on negative yields:

LINK: What Happened to Negative Yields?

The turning tide has become a tidal wave:

LINK: Bonds Suffer Worst Ever Meltdown

Here are the two month returns for the Vanguard Total Bond Market ETF (the most popular bond ETF: BND US), the US 10 year note, and the German 10 year bund:

bond-comp-nov2016

Now, these are not cataclysmic draw downs, but the effect on investor psychology can not be discounted. Bonds have had a wonderful 30 year run, and bond funds have seen massive inflows. But nothing lasts forever, and market movements can become self fulfilling prophecies, especially when it comes to crowded trades. Losing money on bonds is not something that this generation of investors are used to, and outflows from bond funds will lead to forced selling, which will lead to further pressure on bond prices, which will lead to further bond fund redemptions, which will lead to… I think you get the point.

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Closing The Obama Gap

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The current US economic rate of recovery has significantly lagged the historical trend of US GDP growth. Many have argued that this is due to the fact that the “low hanging fruit” has already been picked. Scott Grannis places the blame on poor economic policy from the Obama administration, which has instituted policies that have made businesses more risk averse and thus more hesitant to invest. Reforms in tax policy could to much to restore business confidence. Yesterday’s excellent consumer confidence number points to the right direction:

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OUR OCTOBER RESULTS – THE CALM BEFORE THE TRUMP

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October was spent in the shadow of US presidential elections. Stock markets were flat or slightly negative, and we are seeing increased performance disparity between individual sectors. Despite these headwinds of uncertainty, we managed to earn 0.43% for our clients, bringing our year-to-date weighted average gain to 10.5% after fees.

Our positive performance in October was mainly attributable to stable performance from our fixed income investments, as well as strong performance by some tech stocks that we own in some of our more aggressive portfolios.

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Hindsight is 20/20 and “The Could Have, Would Have, Should Have” Portfolio

“What hindsight does is it blinds us to the uncertainty with which we live. That is, we always exaggerate how much certainty there is. Because after the fact, everything is explained. Everything is obvious. And the presence of hindsight in a way mitigates against the careful design of decision making under conditions of uncertainty.”
(Daniel Kahneman)

Having worked in capital markets for over 15 years, I am very much aware of false clarity of hindsight. When I worked as an institutional trader in Canada, we used to joke that the best portfolio was the “could have, would have, should have” fund, meaning the investments that we would, could or should have made had we had the ability to look into the future. For instance, I remember discussing Apple with a portfolio manager back in 2004. Had we had true conviction, we should have theoretically taken all the money we had, quit our jobs and gone 100% or even 500% into Apple (using leverage would have magnified the genius of the trade…). But we didn’t, because uncertainty is the one true constant in investing.

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Get Ready To Start Buying Emerging Market Stocks

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Emerging market currencies, bonds, and stocks have sold off since the US elections as protectionist banter and hyperbole involving the implementation of trade tariffs has seen money flock to US assets and strengthened the US dollar. However, when the dollar is strong, foreign assets become cheaper, and shrewd investors will be wise to look at oversold EM assets in the next couple of months.

Here is a five year comparison of the S&P 500 Index -vs- the MSCI Emerging Market Index:

sp-v-em

As you can see, Emerging Market stocks have massively under performed the S&P 500 Index and have actually lost money for investors whereas the S&P 500 has almost doubled over the same period of time.

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Investors Are Bailing Out of Bond Funds

flows

Yields are rising in the US in anticipation of higher rates and increased government spending on infrastructure. This means that bond prices are falling and will most likely continue to fall. Given the amount of money that has flowed into bond funds, a systematic reversal of this trend could be brutal for those holding longer bonds. ‘Everyone’ knew that rates were too low, but money kept on flowing into bond funds. Bonds even started being issued at negative yields. This was crazy, but it soon seemed completely normal because everyone was doing it. Institutional investors ‘had no choice’. Wrong. You always have a choice. I still can’t believe that there investors that bought 5 year German Bunds with a zero coupon above par…

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All Major US Stock Indices Are At All-Time Highs

Stocks are hot, bonds are not. This is a dynamic that investors should be getting used to. We will soon start to see record outflows from bond funds. How much of that money flows to equities remains to be seen, but it should be enough to sustain this rally over the near term.

Trump’s victory seems to have ignited ‘animal spirits’ in capital markets…

S&P 500 INDEX
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NASDAQ COMPOSITE INDEX
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DOW JONES INDUSTRIAL INDEX
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S&P MID CAP 400 INDEX
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RUSSELL 2000 INDEX
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