Maybe We Can At Least Get The South To Secede Again

The new normal, or an aberration?

The biggest bond gains in almost a decade have pushed returns on Treasuries above stocks over the past 30 years, the first time that’s happened since before the Civil War. 

Fixed-income investments advanced 6.25 percent this year, almost triple the 2.18 percent rise in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index through last week, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch indexes. Debt markets are on track to return 7.63 percent this year, the most since 2002, the data show. Long-term government bonds have gained 11.5 percent a year on average over the past three decades, beating the 10.8 percent increase in the S&P 500, said Jim Bianco, president of Bianco Research in Chicago.

The combination of a core U.S. inflation rate that has averaged 1.5 percent this year, the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep its target interest rate for overnight loans between banks near zero through 2013, slower economic growth and the highest savings rate since the global credit crisis have made bonds the best assets to own this year. Not only have bonds knocked stocks from their perch as the dominant long-term investment, their returns proved everyone from Bill Gross toMeredith Whitney and Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrong.

“The generation-long outperformance of bonds over stocks has been the biggest investment theme that everyone has just gotten plain wrong,” Bianco said in an Oct. 26 telephone interview. …

The bond market posted its first 30-year gain over the stock market in more than a century during the period ended Sept. 30. The last time was in 1861, leading into the Civil War, when the U.S was moving from farm to factory, according to Siegel, author of the 1994 book “Stocks for the Long Run,” in a telephone interview Oct. 25.

“The rally in bonds is a once in a millennium event, but it’s absolutely mathematically impossible for bonds to get any kind of returns like this going forward whereas stock returns can repeat themselves, and are likely to outperform,” he said. “If you missed the rally in bonds, well, then that’s it.”

Gross eliminated Treasuries from the Total Return Fund in February and owned derivative bets against the debt in March. He moved 16 percent of its assets into U.S. government securities as of September, saying earlier this month in a note to clients that he misjudged the extent of the economic slowdown and called his performance this year “a stinker.” …

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