Bond investors have had a rough ride in November. The Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index plunged by 5% during the last two weeks just before and after the election – its worst such drop since March 2003, according to Dow Jones data. When yields rise, bond prices fall, and vice-versa.
As you know, interest rates have been falling for over 35 years since peaking in 1980. It has been a spectacular bull market for bond investors, that is until just recently. To say that the reversal over the last few weeks came as a surprise to bondholders around the world is an understatement.
More than $77 billion in assets are benchmarked to the Barclays Global Aggregate Bond Index, according to Morningstar, making it one of the most widely followed in the fixed-income world. It incorporates investment-grade debt denominated in 24 different currencies. Sovereign bonds have historically been the Index’s most heavily-weighted constituent, followed by asset-backed securities, corporate bonds and government-related debt.
Global bond yields have been edging up since falling to historic lows in late June/July following the UK’s vote to leave the European Union. But the selloff accelerated aggressively after Donald Trump won the US presidential election – an outcome that took most bond market participants around the world by surprise.
The sharp selloff was predicated on the notion that Donald Trump’s campaign promises to rebuild America’s infrastructure, cut taxes and raise trade barriers, would – if they become reality – drive up inflation, and possibly force the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates much more aggressively than had been expected.
In just the two days following Trump’s election, global bonds shed an estimated $1.1 trillion in value, the worst rout in a year and a half as investors sold bonds and bought stocks in many cases. The stampede out of bonds propelled US Treasury yields to their highest levels since January.