Friday, June 8, 2012

Where No Bond Has Gone Before

CNBC reported this evening that the biggest buyer of bonds during the first quarter was the "mom-and-pop investor". The author views this as cause for calm when it comes to concerns over a potential spike in interest rates. As if individual investors will act rationally when a little certainty surfaces and the smart money starts looking elsewhere. As if the individuals who bought sub 2%, 10 year paper in larger quantities than foreigners and the Fed combined in Q1 are the least bit rational.

There's an old adage on Wall Street that says (something like) the time to get out of stocks is when grandma finally gets in. In other words, when that last reluctant retail investor finally capitulates and follows the rest of the herd, the ballgame's over: All the buyers are in and the next meaningful move can only be to sell. The same logic would surely apply to fixed income securities as well.

I see buying bonds (prices decline when interest rates rise) today as being akin to buying tech stocks in '99 and real estate in '06. That is, they're trading today where no bond has gone before. Be careful...

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