Do bonds have any place in a portfolio anymore? This week, after
writing about how I liked bonds for a trade, I received some email that questioned the whole relevance of bonds. In fact, a bunch of people wrote urging me to spare them the boring bond talk, that it made no sense in this environment.
At first I thought one of the more adamant antibond folk was just kidding and I said so. But he shot me an email right back saying I preach that the goal of this journal is to make money for people and you can't make money in bonds.
I then laid out the case for why you can make money trading bonds. I have always liked to swing around a bit in the bonds because the spread between the bids and offers is tight, yet they can jump around just dandy on news.
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But even as I wrote it, I was losing conviction describing the importance of bonds to this market. In previous markets bonds were like the rain to crops: If you didn't get a good one, you didn't make much of a harvest.
Now, however, bonds seem like a mere distraction. Mortgage rates are up about 60% but housing is roaring. The 6%-and-change rate of bonds is barely competitive with the almost daily 60% stock moves. I have to admit they are a bit of a stinko investment right now.
Does that mean they are irrelevant? Absolutely not. In a low-inflation environment, it is rather hard to lose money in bonds held to fruition. They represent competition, however, only for someone who is so rich that he or she doesn't need to gamble in equities, or so worried about a loss of principal that stocks can't cut it.
Nevertheless, I have to believe that they won't become a force in the investing environment until yields move appreciably higher. I don't see that happening anytime soon.
So for now, at least, I believe that unless you fit into either extreme described above, my email critics are right. They just can't play much of a role at all right now -- other than as cash waiting for a pullback -- in a portfolio.
And I should stop kidding myself that the environment we lived in during the '80s, where bonds gave stocks a great run for the money, is going to happen again anytime soon.
James J. Cramer is manager of a hedge fund and co-founder of TheStreet.com. At time of publication, his fund had no positions in any stocks mentioned. His fund often buys and sells securities that are the subject of his columns, both before and after the columns are published, and the positions that his fund takes may change at any time. Under no circumstances does the information in this column represent a recommendation to buy or sell stocks. Cramer's writings provide insights into the dynamics of money management and are not a solicitation for transactions. While he cannot provide investment advice or recommendations, he invites you to comment on his column at