SEEK OUT STRONG BONDS
Going forward, bonds may offer stocklike appreciation. In fact, bond funds that took losses in 2008 could rebound in 2009 if credit markets return to normal. In that case, bonds might deliver capital gains in addition to yields ranging from 4% (from tax-exempt municipal bond funds) to 11% (from funds holding high-risk corporate â€śjunkâ€ť bonds).
Which types of bond funds are likely to offer both safety and upside potential?
Treasury bond funds. Last yearâ€™s big winners, Treasuries remain safe harbors because they wonâ€™t default: Uncle Sam can just print more money to repay bondholders. Nevertheless, Treasury bond funds may be â€śoverstretchedâ€ť now, says Lawrence Jones, Morningstarâ€™s associate director of fund analysis. â€śAlthough the flight to quality could continue, which would help Treasury bond funds, other types of bond funds look like they offer better value,â€ť he says. â€śTreasury bonds may be the most overvalued asset class now.â€ť The Rydex Government Long Bond 1.2x Strategy Investment Fund (RYGBX) and the ProFunds U.S. Government Plus Investor Fund (GVPIX) were two big performers in the category last year, with total returns of 50% and 49.6%, respectively.
Nimble bond funds.Â Jones suggests that investors seeking relative safety in the bond market choose a fund thatâ€™s run by a savvy manager who can move among various types of bonds to find those that are most appealing. Those might include investment-grade corporate bonds, â€śjunkâ€ť corporate bonds, Treasury bonds, and mortgage-backed securities.