Much ink has been spilt over the question of whether government bonds are in a bubble or not. The bond bubble believers love to cite stats along the lines that bonds are witnessing inflows at the same pace as equity funds did during the TMT bubble.
The bond lovers respond an asset with a finite life and no hope of limitless capital gain can’t really be a ‘bubble’, and beside they argue the ‘fundamentals’ warrant current valuations. (i.e. inflation is low and will remain so).
However, to me this is largely a sterile debate over semantics. The issue shouldn’t be whether bond are a bubble or not, but rather are bonds a good investment or not? Ben Graham defined “An investment operation is one which, upon thorough analysis, promises safety of principal and a satisfactory return. Operations not meeting these requirements are speculative”.
So unless you believe that Japan is correct template for the US (i.e. inflation will be zero for the next decade), government bonds don’t offer an attractive return as a buy and hold proposition.
It is possible to build a speculative case for bond investment (i.e. riding the deflationary news flow down), however, as ever this leaves participants with the conundrum of Cinderella’s ball as described by Warren Buffett “The giddy participants all plan to leave just seconds before midnight. There is a problem though: They are dancing in a room in which the clocks have no hands!” Personally I prefer to stick to investment rather than speculation.