Bonds Versus Stocks: Question Everything You Know

As of the end of March, bonds had outpaced stocks over the last twenty years, according to a recent Bloomberg article by columnist Nir Kaissar.

“While everyone was consumed with the coronavirus, something remarkable happened in the U.S. markets,” the article says, noting that investors would have “made more money and lost less sleep if they had just stuck with boring old bonds.”

This runs contrary to what investors are typically told, the article says: “Bonds are for stability and stocks are for growth…That trade-off between stocks and bonds is known in technical parlance as the equity risk premium.”

According to the article, there are understandable reasons for the recent strength of bonds, including the historic decline in interest rates and the volatility in equities. “What is clear,” it says, “is that stocks’ sagging performance over the last two decades is a challenge to three burgeoning investing theories,” including: (1)The cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (CAPE); (2) the notion that central bank intervention is a boon for stocks; (3) and the idea that value investing is dead.

The article concludes that if the coronavirus pandemic proves to be more protracted than investors expect, “bonds are likely to extend their lead over stocks, and investors may have to second-guess some newly embraced ideas.”