Zweig: Income Investors Shouldn't Get Desperate

Investors feverishly searching for yield in today’s market—”with stocks at record highs and the income on bonds not far from record lows”–are showing signs of desperation, according to columnist Jason Zweig of The Wall Street Journal.

Zweig argues that as long as markets continue to show decent performance at “little apparent risk, the more investors come to believe that high returns must be a kind of entitlement.” He cites results of a recent survey in which participants said they “need” inflation-adjusted returns of 8.9% (up from 8.5% last year), and says that such “unrealistic” return requirements can encourage risk-taking. [Zweig offers Morningstar data showing that, since 1926, the inflation-adjusted return on U.S. stocks has averaged about 7% annually.]

“Look at how companies in a variety of industries are associating themselves with the hottest speculation around: bitcoin and other digital currencies that circulate on computer networks, rather than being issued by central banks.” Zweig points out that the flow of funds to these sorts of stocks could be a symptom of an “overheating” market. While such an approach, he argues, may pay off for some in the short run, investors should “hoard their cash and remember that in the long run it doesn’t pay to chase returns greater than the markets can realistically provide.”