As we move into Christmas, the bond market is locked into a tug of war. On one hand, the sharp decline of the dollar in the foreign exchange market portends an increase of inflation in the future.
On the other, the tenuous OPEC agreement has cut the price of oil sharply -- good news for keeping a lid on inflation -- and the bond market has rallied smartly.
Here is a list of fixed-income securities that shoppers might consider giving as presents.
Some commercial banks are offering money market demand accounts that are returning an "annualized rate" of 5.70 percent.
The following CD rates are also available: one month, 6.25 percent; three months, 6.90 percent; six months, 7.25 percent; one year, 7.80 percent; two years, 8.00 percent; and four years, 8.35 percent. These CDs come in minimum deposits of $500, and are subject to the usual penalties for early withdrawals.
Some savings and loans will pay higher rates on CDs, but they require a $5,000 minimum deposit. For instance, a six-month CD may be offered at 7.98 percent, a one-year CD at 8.24 percent and an 18-month CD 8.51 percent.
The following T. Rowe Price open-ended taxable mutual funds are returning seven-day annualized returns: Prime Reserve money market fund, 6.90 percent; High Yield fund, 12.68 percent; U.S. Treasury money market fund, 5.86 percent; International Bond fund, 8.16 percent; and the GNMA fund, 10.14 percent.
Returns available on these T. Rowe Price tax-exempt funds are 4.77 percent on the money market fund, 7.45 percent on the Intermediate fund and 7.87 percent on the High Yield fund.
As a point of reference, 30-year A rated tax-exempt revenue issues are returning 8.40 percent while a 30-year, AAA-rated general obligation bond is returning 7.60 percent.
An attractive part of the municipal market is the short-term sector, where "put" bonds are available in minimums of $25,000.
These high-rated bonds have a special feature where the bonds are "put" back to the remarketing agent or the issuer at a specific time, at par.
These are examples: New York State Power Authority, 5.75 percent with a "put" on Jan. 1, 1988, offered at par; and the Student Loan Funding Corp. of Cincinnati, 7.00 percent with a "put" on Dec. 15, 1988, offered at par.
For those who like the safety of government bonds, the Treasury will offer a two-year note on Tuesday and a four-year note on Wednesday. Both will be in minimums of $1,000 and they should return 7.80 percent and 8.25 percent, respectively.
U.S. Savings bonds will make a dandy gift in someone's stocking. The Series EE bonds come in eight denominations ranging from $50 to $10,000. They cost one-half the face amount of the bond -- i.e. $25 to $5,000. If the EEs are held for five years, they will receive the current guaranteed rate of 6.00 percent. Happy Holidays!
James E. Lebherz has 28 years' experience in fixed-income investments.