Baseball, Hot Dogs, and Fixed Income Securities
Having just celebrated another 4th of July holiday, I reflected on the historical importance of our country’s independence finalized 234 years ago, the defining birthday of our great country that permanently marked the separation of our nation from Great Britain. In honor of this revolutionary milestone, our culture has added a few American traditions over the centuries, including watching baseball, and gorging ourselves on hot dogs, and apple pie.There is no better symbol of the importance our culture places on overindulgence than Nathan’s International Hot Dog Eating Contest, held each year on July 4th in Coney Island, Brooklyn, New York. The 95th annual contest winner was Joey Chestnut with a total of 54 HDBs (Hot Dogs & Buns) consumed, but not without some controversy thanks to the arrest of former Nathan’s champ Takeru Kobayashi, who watched from the sidelines this year due to a contract dispute with event organizers. Chestnut holds the world record set in 2009 with 68 HDBs, equivalent to about 20,000 calories. In setting the unmatched record, the winner of wiener eating contest inhaled in 10 minutes what an average human should consume in 10 days.
In the financial markets, Americans have been pigging out on something else over the last few decades, and that is bonds. The craving for bonds has not changed since the end of the financial crisis either. According to Morningstar, since the end of 2008, investors have placed a net $390 billion into taxable bond funds and withdrawn -$45 billion out of U.S. stock funds. A continuation of these trends can be seen in the latest ICI (Investment Company Institute) fund flow data, in which we saw a +$6.3 billion inflow into bonds and a -$1.3 billion abandonment of stocks from the hands of jittery stock investors.
Beyond the endless checklist of worries (Europe default, China slowing, twin deficits, elections, etc.), there has been a consistent exodus of capital from money market funds due to the ridiculously low yields – the seven-day yield on taxable money-market funds, as measured by IMoneyNet, has recently held steady around 0.04%. For yield-hungry investors, bondholders are not getting a lot of bang for their buck if you consider the 10-Year Treasury Note is trading at 2.98%. Nothing in life comes for free, so in the case of Treasuries, bond investors are predominantly swapping market risk for interest rate risk. As I have repeatedly stated in the past, bonds are not evil, however fixed income exposure in a portfolio should be customized for an individual in the context of a diversified portfolio that meets investors’ objectives and risk tolerance.
Although the inflation skies are sunny now, there are clouds on the horizon and the stimulative monetary policies conducted over the last few years do not augur well for a likely climb in future interest rates.
Reversal of Fortune
In the competitive eating world, there is a so-called “reversal of fortune” that disqualifies eaters. At some point, you can only consume so much before the forces of nature take over.
I don’t know when the day of regurgitation will come for many fixed income securities, but managing your consumption of bonds, and the associated duration, becomes crucial as bond bellies continue to bulge. Takeru Kobayashi discovered this first hand at the Nathan’s 2007 championship event.
Baseball, hot dogs, and apple pie have been essential components to the unique aspects of the great American culture. In the world of investing, we have witnessed an acceleration in investors’ appetite for bonds – I just hope for the sake of overzealous bond investors, they will not suffer a reversal of fortune.
Wade W. Slome, CFA, CFP®
Plan. Invest. Prosper.
*DISCLOSURE: Sidoxia Capital Management (SCM) and some of its clients own certain exchange traded funds (including fixed income ETFs), but at the time of publishing SCM had no direct positions in any other security referenced in this article. No information accessed through the Investing Caffeine (IC) website constitutes investment, financial, legal, tax or other advice nor is to be relied on in making an investment or other decision. Please read disclosure language on IC “Contact” page.