Investors are going bonkers for bonds

In a further sign of the mania gripping the bond market, Germany issued €3.15bn of zero-interest ten-year bonds last week.

German Reichstag building ©
German debt is deemed Europe's safest asset

Germany has sold a tranche of bonds that pay no interest, reports Adam Samson in the Financial Times. In a further sign of the mania gripping the bond market, Berlin issued €3.15bn of "zero-coupon" ten-year debt last week.

So investors are willing to miss out on annual interest payments to hold German paper, considered Europe's safest asset. The auction finished with a negative yield of 0.26%, meaning that buyers would lock in a small loss if they held the paper until maturity. This is the second time that Germany has managed to issue such zero-coupon debt.

Worldwide, more than £10trn-worth of government and some corporate bonds are now trading on a negative yield. The phenomenon is underpinned by quantitative-easing policies from central banks that have seen them buy up trillions of dollars of debt, regardless of the price.

The US Federal Reserve, for instance, owns $2.1trn in Treasury bonds. The mania for bonds means that more than a dozen supposedly high-risk corporate junk bonds are trading in Europe on a negative yield, notes Paul Davies in The Wall Street Journal. "Ultra-loose monetary policies have turned debt investing into a choice about how to lose the least amount of money."

Many will still be hoping for a profit, of course. The German ten-year bond, for example, has traded on yields as low as 0.40% this month. Those who bought the asset on a negative yield may still realise a capital gain so long as they can sell it on at a higher price to a "greater fool" willing to take on an even worse rate of return.

Investors are betting that central-bank activism has abolished risk, says Robert Burgess on Bloomberg. Yields on two-year Italian debt fell below 0% this month. This in a country "on the verge of fiscal crisis" barely a month ago. "Logic has been suspended."

Recommended

Bonds
Glossary

Bonds

A bond is a type of IOU issued by a government, local authority or company to raise money.
19 May 2020
Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it
Inflation

Inflation is the easiest way out of this – just don’t expect politicians to admit it

The UK government borrowed £34.1bn in December, a record amount for that month. Britain's debt pile now amounts to 100% of GDP. How are we going to pa…
22 Jan 2021
Why bonds may not be the safe haven they once were
Investment strategy

Why bonds may not be the safe haven they once were

“De-risking” by shifting your portfolio into bonds used to make sense. But not so much any more, says Merryn Somerset Webb. So what should you do inst…
21 Jan 2021
The charts that matter: bubbling over?
Global Economy

The charts that matter: bubbling over?

As markets get decidedly bubbly, John Stepek looks at the action in the charts that matter most to the global economy.
16 Jan 2021

Most Popular

Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021
House prices

Why we won’t see a house-price crash in 2021

Lockdown sent house prices berserk as cooped up home-workers fled for bigger properties in the country. And while they won’t rise quite as much this y…
18 Jan 2021
Prepare for the end of the epic bubble in US stocks
US stockmarkets

Prepare for the end of the epic bubble in US stocks

US stocks are as expensive as they’ve ever been. How can you prepare your portfolio for a bubble bursting?
18 Jan 2021
The best investment trusts to buy for 2021
Investment trusts

The best investment trusts to buy for 2021

Sectors ranging from emerging markets to student accommodation look poised to do well this year, says David Stevenson, as he picks the best investment…
19 Jan 2021