Finding Real Returns in the bond Market

This is a great post by my friend Bert Whitehead about the relationship of risk and return – specifically in the bond market.

Steve

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Widespread consternation is erupting in the investment arena, particularly in Fixed Income Departments which handles bonds. Everyone wants to find the perfect investment with ‘decent’ yields like 5% to 8% which are our birthright. To accomplish this, many investment advisors devise complex allocation strategies, e.g. derivatives, collateralized mortgage obligations, annuities and whole life insurance, to justify the amount they charge investors.

I still have trouble believing that these ‘Professional Fixed Income Strategists’ can add any value for their retail clients. Surely if they had the foresight and analytic ability they claim, they would have been able to detect Collateralized Mortgage Collapse or Libor Rate scam. Their losses on these investments will exceed $100,000,000,000 (yes, 100 Billion)… and the scam had been ongoing since 2008!

The players include Schwab, BofA, JP Morgan, Citi Bank – plus virtually all the biggest bond dealers abroad. Their strategies in this area have been a continuous train wreck! Why would we conclude that they can make these kinds of fixed income strategies work for small investors in the retail market?

Rates Reflect Default Risk

The truth is this: if Treasuries are paying 2, and high-yield bonds are paying 6%, the 4% difference is entirely attributable to the higher risk (i.e. default rate) plus the outrageous fees bond dealers charge. That means that for every $1million invested in junk bonds, some retail customer(s) will lose $40,000 – net of everyone else’s gains. There is no free lunch.

via Bert Whitehead: September 2012.

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