Bond Market Strategies for the Coming Rise in Interest Rates

 NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Bonds don't have to be a losing bet as interest rates rise.

Just ask two prominent bond strategists -- Jeffrey Rosenberg of BlackRock (BLK) and Prudential (PRU) Fixed Income's Robert Tipp -- on how to play the coming rise in rates.

Their big ideas include: More exposure to international government bonds, more non-government securities, and more emphasis on long-term bonds whose rates will rise less sharply, and which will lose less principal value, as central banks begin to nudge short-term rates higher.

"The amount most investors earn in income will be more than they lose when prices go down," Tipp said.

Tipp made several key points:

  • One reason U.S. yields went so low is that other countries' rates went even lower, pushing the trading value of their existing bonds even higher. That has eased sharply in recent weeks, with 10-year German bond yields rising to 0.61% from an April low of 0.05%. But European debt is still cheap enough to keep a lid on U.S. rates.
  • The smart play in sovereign debt will be to move offshore, where central banks are maintaining already low rates (as Britain announced today) or cutting them (as China did this weekend). He even is betting on the European periphery, thinking that debt from countries like Italy and Spain may carry a better balance of risk and reward.
  • Investors in Treasuries should move toward longer maturities, such as 10-year or even 30-year paper, avoiding short-term issues that will react more strongly to moves in the Fed funds rate, he said.
  • However, the moves in the U.S. won't be that sharp from here on out, Tipp says, because the Federal Reserve has clearly telegraphed that rates are going higher, letting the markets begin to boost rates on its own. That should head off sharp spikes like those that handed Treasury investors a total-return loss during the 1993-94 tightening cycle, he said. The comparable loss in this cycle may have been 2013's 2.0% dip in the Barclays Aggregate Bond Index, he says, set off when the Fed gave its first signs of tightening monetary policy.

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