We think the chart below is a strong candidate for “Chart of the Year” in 2022 – it explains so much of what’s happening.
It shows the total dollar value of government bonds globally with negative yields in trillions of dollars. The past decade has been, in many ways, an era of monetary experimentation, as central bankers have sought to lean on the lever of interest rates and so fulcrum moribund economies back to health (growth).
As we can see from the chart, the first appearance of negative-yielding government bonds occurred around 2012-2013. The maintenance of rates at low, zero, or negative levels fostered the growth of negative-yielding bonds, and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the total value of negative-yielding government bonds reach almost $18 trillion by December 2020.
The overarching theme of 2022 has been inflation and rising interest rates. With central banks raising rates consistently throughout 2022, bond yields began to rise. By January 2023, the total amount of government bonds with negative yields had fallen from $18 trillion to $230 billion.
The corollary of rising bond yields is falling bond prices. As the second chart shows, bond investors nursed total losses of 18% in 2022 – and this from low-risk or risk-free instruments! We imagine that any of our readers in “balanced funds” are in such a position. With yields currently at 3.3% and an average maturity of 6-8 years, it will be some time before these losses are recouped.
With the advent of rising interest rates, we are regaining our appetite for bonds (to a small degree!). For example, we cover an investment-grade corporate bond fund, with a yield of 4.8% and a maturity of just 9 months. Granted, this return is below inflation, but it is significantly ahead of bank deposits in Ireland without the risk of equities or longer-dated bonds. Anyone interested in this fund and its proposition can contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01-2871400.