Bond yields are rising, especially since the unexpected victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election. The big question hovering over bond markets now is whether or not the recent drop in bond prices signals the end of the 35-year bond bull market. Or is it just another brief disruption to the long-term bond rally as occurred in 1994? While it’s too early to be definitive, the current move appears more cyclical than structural as most of the longer-term drivers of longer yields remain in place.
The challenge for investors is that valuations on most assets are at best fair, and, in most cases more demanding, meaning the risk of loss in many assets is elevated. In the context of our investment framework, there are limited assets offering appealing returns for the risk embedded in owning these assets. In this framework, broader Australian equities stand out as offering reasonable medium-term returns given undemanding valuations. At the other end of the spectrum, we remain concerned about A-REITs (even though they have performed poorly of late) as valuations remain stretched and their sensitivity to small changes in bond yields remains high. Interestingly, while sovereign bonds offer poor return prospects the potential for big losses from owning bonds is relatively low. On balance, the concentration of assets in the lower left-hand quadrant is consistent with retaining a conservative stance notwithstanding enthusiasm around a Trump presidency. As we have seen during the campaign, the reality and the rhetoric may be poles apart.