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bond fund

One of the easiest and most convincing arguments that one can make right now is that US investors are abandoning stocks and flocking to the perceived safety of bonds. It is easy to point to the fund flows which show week after consecutive week of outflows for US equity mutual funds and gargantuan positive inflows for bonds.

The chart below shows the stark dichotomy in cumulative flows between equity (both US and foreign) and fixed income funds:

cumulative fund flows ICI Sep 2010

Since January 2007, US retail investors have cashed out an astonishing $262 Billion from domestic equity mutual funds and socked away almost $730 Billion into municipal and taxable bond funds. So it is understandable why someone looking at this chart would start to believe that the fabled US equity culture is over.

But as I wrote late last year, it is too soon to declare an end for the "cult of equities". If instead we look at the relative holdings of US equities, we see that the average US investor has still got skin in the game. The chart below shows US stock holdings relative to total household financial assets (click to see a larger graph in a new tab):
Continue reading 'Rumors About The Demise Of US Equity Culture, Premature'

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There is an inter-market relationship between bonds and gold which may not be evident at first glance. The reason why the two disparate markets are connected is that they both rely on one factor: inflation. Or the expectation of future inflation.

For this reason, it is very rare for these two markets to go in different directions in the long run. Instead, they tend to dance around each other.

When the market expects future inflation to be higher, gold mining stocks rise and bond prices fall (yields rise). So in effect, by watching one market, we can attempt to gain insight into the other.

Jay Kaeppel developed a simple system to do just that. He looked at the 12 month rate of change (ROC) in the GMI (Barron's Gold Mining Index) and compared it to the 12 month performance of bond prices going forward. We can substitute the Amex Gold BUGS Index (HUI) for GMI.

When the ROC for the gold index is positive and high, we would expect bond prices to decline going forward (next 12 months). Conversely, when the rate of change for HUI is negative or low, we'd expect it to be a great time to buy bonds. And this is generally what happens according to historical data.

Be sure to check out Kaeppel's original article on this: Maximizing Bond Fund Profits. You can find it in the Reports & Articles section of my free trading resource "goodies box".

So what is this simple intermarket relationship telling us now?

Well, as far as I can tell, the bond market and the gold market have decoupled. I can't seem to find any meaningful relationship between them now. Kaeppel's article was written in 1994 so it only included data until then. By looking at data from the late 1990's to today, it seems that the two markets have gone their separate ways. Atleast for now.

For example, in the summer of 2002 when the 12 month ROC for the HUI index was astronomically high, bond prices actually were higher a year later. And in the summer of 2005 (see graph below), when the 12 month ROC was negative (-40%), bond prices actually peaked and were lower a year later.

Click to Enlarge Graph
bond and gold market analysis

Strange. As I've mentioned before, although the bond market is pricing in future expectations of inflation, other markets, like gold, silver, and the CRB commodities index are breaking down and not confirming this. What to make of this?

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