Bonds are viewed as investors’ safe money, and with good reason. The graph below shows that since the inception of the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index in 1976, there have only been 3 calendar years in which the Index had a negative total return—the worst of which was in 1994, which experienced a negative return of -2.92%.
This doesn’t mean that there haven’t been periods of time when bonds have struggled—there certainly have been. During times of panic, bonds can be scary, too. This was happening over the last two weeks. This was similar to the panic selling during the 2008-2009 financial crisis, and again in the energy driven sell-off in corporate bonds in 2015 and early 2016, and in the fourth quarter of 2018.
In our opinion, investment grade corporate bonds and high-quality municipal bonds have been sold in order to calm panicked investors’ frayed nerves. In essence, investors have thrown the baby out with the bath water.
This week the bond market has returned to more normal behavior. There are two reasons for this, (1) the Federal Reserve announced on Monday 3/23/2020 a massive monetary package to support the bond market, and (2) most of the over-leveraged hedge funds and institutions that were selling over the last 2 weeks appear to have cleared their trades.
We believe the current dislocations in the bond market are behind us, and that bonds will continue to provide income and will slowly return to fair value.
Source: Clark Capital Management
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