A bond salesman from the investment banking firm of Goldman Sachs described the fixed-income markets last week as "dead in the water." Many salesman hit the road to call on customers, a sure sign that there was little, if any, activity.
An overwhelming percentage of market participants expect rates to headhigher. So the buyers decide to wait for some indication, especially from the Federal Reserve, that rates will be inching up.
The calender was fairly light so the sellers had little to peddle, and the market remained in limbo.
More and more corporate issues are being marketed with a maturity falling between 5 to 10 years. This is to be expected as rate rise. Last week, a double-A-rated utility maturing in 1985 sold to return 9.55 percent. An industrial bond, Johns-Manville, with the same maturity sold out on a 9.70 percent basis. The issue was split rated, single-A by Moody's and double-A by Standard and Poor's.
In the tax-exempt area, three sizable revenue issues had to be repriced before they could attract buyers. One was of particular interest. The North Carolina Municipal Power Agency floated a loan to aid construction of a nuclear power plant. The long bonds had to be "sweetened" to return 7 3/8 percent before the issue sold out.
The Treasury market was quiet as government dealers attempted to distribute the bonds that they recently had underwritten in the quarterly refunding.
Prudence suggests being in a short-term liquied position at this time. Money market funds returning 9 3/4 percent to 10 percent are especially attractive.
The feeling is that rates will move higher through much of this year. Consequently, you are being paid a high attractive return while you wait for the higher rates to arrive.
Timing will be critical. Investors should be thinking about the type of securities to purchase, how long a maturity to buy and the amount of income they desire.
Seldom does anyone buy at the peak knowingly. So while you are formulating your next investment step, carefully consider all the aspects and what you want from your investment.
"Call protection" also should be considered so that your high returns cannot be called away from you in a short time.