Monday 18 April 2011

Hold cash now, buy bonds when interest rates rise?

On Friday, Charles Hugh Smith posted a theory that I can accept as at least plausible: America's rich will consolidate their long-term gains by engineering a bond crisis - a refusal by the Federal Reserve to keep financing government spending.

This will make interest rates soar (collapsing the tradable values of bonds and, I'd have thought, equities); new bond issues will have to offer much higher income; the rich move in with their huge reserves of cash; then comes the demand for serious economic retrenchment; interest rates fall; because of their locked-in high yields, the capital value of new bonds shoots up; hey presto, another killing for the millionaires.

If that's so, the strategy will be to copy the rich (if you have the resources) - hold cash patiently and pile into the bond market when interest rates peak.

Other implications that occur to me: don't owe any more money than you have to, don't overinvest in residential or commercial property, don't be in a business that depends on people's discretionary spending. Reconsider your balance of shares, bonds and cash. It may even be worth thinking about moving somewhere with historically lower crime rates.

What about "inflation-protected" investments, such as NS&I Index-Linked Savings Certificates (due to become available again soon)? Smith observes: "Holders of TIPS [Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities, in the USA] will do OK, unless the government fraudulently sets the rate of inflation well below reality. Hmm, isn't that exactly what's it's already doing?" But presumably there's a limit to how much the government can misrepresent inflation; and besides, Smith's thesis is that we are headed for deflation because inflation robs the rich.

He could be wrong; but if he's right, the word passed down the ranks of cash holders is "Stand fast!"

INVESTMENT DISCLOSURE: None. Still in cash, and missing all those day-trading opportunities.

DISCLAIMER: Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog.

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