As retail investor surveys show money continuing to rotate from stocks to bonds - despite sky-high bond prices and their associated ultra-low interest rates - there is increasing concern that investors may soon be blind-sided by at best a savage bond bear market, and at worst a bond bubble that pops. But are investors really buying into bonds because they're bullish on bonds, or because they're bearish on stocks with few appealing alternatives?
After all, if there really is a bond market bubble that's going to pop, the precipitous rise in interest rates could do even more harm to stock prices than bond prices, both from the relative value perspective (who wants to buy the S&P 500 at today's 2% dividend yields when bonds pay 6% again?) and from the economic perspective (a sharp rise in interest rates isn't exactly bullish for economic growth!).
Which means the reality may be that today's bond buying is not about hunting for return in bonds, but about managing the risk of equities (and/or other risk assets). Of course, if the investor really thought the popping of a bond bubble was looming, the best decision may simply be to go to cash. But given the uncertainty of timing, the next best choice for the bearish investor: stay invested, tilt the portfolio towards bonds (and likely shorten duration), and wait and see. Who knows, maybe rates will manage to go even lower from here, as they have 'surprisingly' done for the last 3 consecutive years!