5 moves to survive the 2014 bond meltdown

Time to prepare your portfolio as the Fed pulls back on buying and interest rates rise.

By Traders Reserve Jan 7, 2014 5:03PM

Image: Stock market (© Digital Vision Ltd./SuperStock)By Jim Woods

Do you own U.S. government Treasury bonds in your portfolio? Millions of Americans do -- and that's a big problem.

Because the U.S. economy is the largest, and by comparison, most stable government entity in existence, Treasury bonds have been sought after as a place to park money when global markets are in turmoil. Of course, there's been plenty of turmoil in the global markets over the past five years, and midway through 2013 we saw the first inkling of what could be the next massive bond market meltdown.

Last May, the Federal Reserve began dropping hints that it would start pulling back the reins on its unprecedented $85-billion-per-month bond-buying scheme. That caused a mini-panic in the bond market, and the result was a big selloff in long-term Treasury bonds that threw a big scare into those who thought of the bond market as a "safe" place to park assets.

Frighteningly, just the prospect of the biggest buyer of bonds (the Fed) finally pulling back on its purchases caused long-term bonds to plunge nearly 16% in just five months. In January, that prospect will become reality, as the Fed already has committed to reducing its bond-buying binge by $10 billion per month.

Now I ask you: Can you afford to lose another 15%, 20%, or even 50% or more when interest rates surge and bond values plummet the next time around?

Here are five ways to avoid wiping out your wealth before the next bond meltdown.


Understand when the bond bubble will burst

The first step to avoiding a bond market meltdown is to identify when it begins. That's not the easiest task, but here is one key metric to watch that will telegraph this move: interest rates.

Specifically, interest rates on long-term Treasury bonds such as the benchmark 10-Year Treasury note. These rates, set by the buying and selling of bonds in the secondary market, will begin a sharp rise long before any official action is taken by the Federal Reserve to raise the Fed Funds Rate. On Dec. 26, rates on the 10-year spiked to a new 52-week high of 3%. The breaching of this key level means we could see rates spike even further very, very quickly.

Now, a lot of investors I speak with are under the misconception that it won't be until the Fed takes action that the bond bubble will begin to burst. This notion is flat-out wrong. You see, the equity and bond markets are forward-looking mechanisms. That means that markets will act in front, and in anticipation of, any official policy action. When the smart money, i.e. the fast money on Wall Street, begins selling bonds, yields will begin to really rise -- and that will be your cue that a bond meltdown is heating up.


Determine exposure to the riskiest bonds

Once you've identified the bond meltdown (ideally before any meltdown takes place), you need to figure out precisely what your level of exposure is to bonds. While this step may sound simple, you would be surprised to find out how many investors hold Treasury bonds in mutual funds, 401k's, IRAs, pensions, and other retirement accounts that they really didn’t even know they had.

If you have any kind of an income-oriented mutual fund, or any kind of fund that boasts of having a blend of stocks and bonds, then you likely have more exposure to Treasury bonds and other bonds than you are aware of. The more exposure you find out you have to the riskiest bonds, i.e. those that have the longest-dated maturities, the better equipped you’ll be to make sure you minimize that exposure before the bubble bursts.

Reduce duration in your bond holdings

After you've determined your overall exposure to bonds, you'll need to move to curtail your exposure to the riskiest, long-dated maturity bonds such as the kind of long-term Treasury bonds found in an exchange-traded fund (ETF) such as the iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT).

The reason: the long end of the yield curve is the most susceptible to interest rate risk. So, if bonds begin to sell, yields will begin to spike and bond prices will begin to fall -- and the biggest damage will occur in long-term, 20-plus year Treasury bonds. Similar pain also is likely in 10-year Treasury notes, which are widely held by many investors, and many bond mutual funds as well as many growth and income funds.

By reducing duration in your bond holdings, you’ll be in a much better position to prevail during the next bond market meltdown.

Hedge your bets

If bond values start to melt down again as I suspect they will, one way to take advantage of that trend is to own investments designed to do well when bond prices falter. Two ways to do this are with ETFs such as the ProShares Short 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBF), and its more aggressive and leveraged big brother, the ProShares UltraShort 20+ Year Treasury ETF (TBT).

Both of these funds are designed to deliver the inverse price performance of the 20+ year Treasury bond segment, but with TBF it's a one-for-one proposition. TBT employs leverage, and as such it's designed to move twice the inverse of Treasury bond prices. As you can see by the price charts here of TBF and TBT, both funds surged dramatically from May through September, as smart investors rotated money into these funds as bonds were being sold off.

These hedged positions are a great way for either more conservative investors (TBF), or more aggressive traders (TBT) to take advantage of periods where bonds are out of favor -- and these funds will really give your portfolio an edge during the next bond market meltdown.

Diversify with dividend stocks

If you own bonds, you are likely in the market for income. Yet during a bond market meltdown, you’re going to be losing principal, and that's going to take a big whack out of your overall wealth. To avoid this, you'll want to own other asset classes, and one of the best asset classes to own is stable dividend-paying stocks.

Here we are talking about well-known names, well-capitalized and cash-rich companies with a competitive advantage in their respective sector, and companies that make the kinds of products that will continue to sell no matter what the conditions are in the global economy.

These would be the corporate giants that pay solid dividends, and that have a track record of paying and increasing dividends each year. These are the companies that also pay an attractive dividend yield, usually in the 3% to 5% range. These companies also stand to profit from a flight-to-quality away from Treasurys and into stocks once the bond meltdown takes place.

An exchange traded fund that fits this bill is the iShares DJ Select Dividend Index Fund (DVY). This fund holds the biggest and best dividend-paying stocks in the market today. Shares of DVY performed beautifully in 2013, with a total return of nearly 25%. Once bonds begin the inevitable, i.e. their next big meltdown, look for capital to flee and find its way into the likes of DVY -- and then just relax and collect your profits.

More from Traders Reserve





Jan 8, 2014 12:52PM
Great news about the 238,000 jobs added in December.

Jan 11, 2014 6:50AM
74,000 jobs created only half of what was expected. 93,000,000.00 still out of the work force. Macy's getting ready to layoff 2,500 employees....And the unemployment rate is at 6.7%????? I love how the number come out. when will we bring back our manufacturing, This will be the only way to create jobs here in this country. The only manufacturing we do now is FAST FOOD! And that's not rocket science as the paper it is wrapped in is printed where to place the sandwich. Really! look at a Roy Rodgers sandwich wrapper and in the middle it reads place sandwich here. 
Jan 8, 2014 11:19AM
Do we need a new Czar for each of the "Promise Zones"?
Jan 8, 2014 11:02AM
"Promise Zones" ............. LMFAO........... period
Jan 8, 2014 11:31AM
Promise Zone #1 - I promise a free lot in Detroit for every liberal to plant a garden. All you have to do is move there. We can save Detroit with micro gardens............. period.
Jan 7, 2014 11:07PM
Stay well diversified across all asset classes and you don't have to worry about timing anything.....
Jan 8, 2014 2:27PM


Of course, there is always the option to purchase a bond close to or at its par value, collect you payments until maturity, then receive your returned pricipal at maturity.  That way, the daily price of the bond (up or down) really doesn't matter to you.


THAT'S the way we do it in the promise zone.



Jan 11, 2014 1:19PM
Slavery and discrimination is said to be a "no no" in America.  But, be truthful.  If you work, you are a slave to this government.  If you work, you are discriminated against.  Why?  Because you are taxed to support those who won't work.  This is not to discredit those who are out of work but it is inteded as discontent toward a worthless government and toward those who choose not to work.  I believe the time will come when the working people will rebel.  It has happened in countless other countries.  I think it will happen here.
Jan 8, 2014 12:18PM

Promise Zones....What the hell are those...?

Haven't we had Programs like this before...?

Victory Gardens, Beautify America, No Child left Behind, etc, etc, etc.

I thought this Article was about Bonds and such..??

We have a promise zone here, I promise to pay my taxes; They promise not to take the farm.

Our Micro Garden is all in the Freezer. or in our tummies.

Jan 8, 2014 1:38PM
Hey Beav............ did the ObummerCare doc speak english?
Jan 8, 2014 3:44PM
I gave myself a thumbs up today....I feel good.
Jan 11, 2014 1:28PM
I worked for years to pay for my house.  I noticed others were spending more money than I and their rent was largely paid by "section 8."  They only paid a few dollars and lived in better housing than me.  I encouraged my children to "get an education; nobody can take that away from you."  I thought I was doing right.  Then, I began to look around and saw many whose education was taken away from them by the legal drug lords.  I saw people losing their jobs due to the legal drug lords' addiction.  And, no, therse were innocent people who listened to the "ask your doctor" ads and they "asked their doctor."  Now, they have lost their career.  The "ask your doctor" ads are working.  Our CONgress isn't working.  I will NOT vote aro anyone currently in office.  But, the freeloaders will put them back in.
Jan 8, 2014 1:08PM
I wonder how far Brent the lunger had to travel to see an ObummerCare doctor?
Jan 7, 2014 10:09PM
All of that bond buying with fantasy dollars by the Federal Reserve will bring down the value of government bonds. Putting money in cash may devalue but not as badly as US Government Bonds.
Jan 8, 2014 12:58PM

I really don't understand "all" the fascination, that some have with Brent, Patriot, Limo, Regal, Foxy Lady and others,.? blah, blah, blah, yada, yada, yada....

Must be something interesting in that person you all follow, are they an astute investor..

Or just a play toy to many...

Most of the wasted comments or large amounts of interest, JUST seem to be a WASTE of time.

Jan 11, 2014 1:15PM
Everyone wants to get your money. And, the government just takes it.  A very few will make it big by investing but the vast majority will not.  I have come to believe investing is too risky.  That brings me to the belief if one truly wants to "survive" in America the way to do that is to have absolutely nothing more than the clothes on your back and maybe a few dollars in the bank to get you through the week.  Do not own a home! Do not own anything more than maybe a used car.  The reason is simple.  If you have anything, you have to pay for those who don't.  If you go into a nursing home, even at a young age due to acccidents, etc, you will lose all you worked for.  If you don't have anything, you are taken care of.  I once thougth "if you can't beat em, join em" was a sorry way to look at life.  Now, it makes sense.
Jan 11, 2014 2:46PM

This has to be one of the most inane articles ever written The worst bond market in the last 30 yrs was 1994 when the typical treasury bond mutual fund lost 5%. To suggest loses ranging from 15 to 50% is a total absurdity and demonstrates  total ignorance of the bond market.


Jan 11, 2014 1:23PM
I worked more than 40 years, probably about 45 or possible more.  I worked 38 years on the same job.  Last week, I did not work.  I'm not working today.  Next week, I plan to not work.  After devoting a lifetime to my job and letting my family fall into second place, I neticed those who haven't worked in years are doing better than me.  I stopped working.  I joined them. I went to a doctor only if it was a have to.  they went regularly.  I couldn't afford to go.  They didn't have to pay.  Who was the stupid one here?  I finally wised up.....
Jan 8, 2014 12:14PM


This article doesn't say much about corporate bonds or bonds from other countries like Canada.


Munis don't need to be mentioned.  Nobody wastes their time even talking about those anymore.


But Mr. Woods definitely has a bee in his bonnet about treasuries.  Perhaps he is the "enemy" <eerie background music> working for the downfall of our great nation.  He should be arrested for treason and then banished to a promise zone.  Just sayin.'



Jan 11, 2014 11:04PM
Become an Obama slave. He is into his heavy recruitment mode right now. So quit your job and file for unemployment, food stamps, obamaphone, and much , much more. Then you will be the kind of American he most desires. He will give you everyone else's money except his of course. Do not even think of being a productive Citizen. Become a Leech sucking the good out of everything possible. Yes being an Obama Slave is the way to go.
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