History Says It’s Time to Buy Long-Term Bonds as Peak Rates Near

Investors loading up on long-term bonds have a history at their back.

For decades, Treasuries maturing in 10 or more years have consistently outperformed shorter-dated sectors immediately following the last in a series of interest-rate increases by the Federal Reserve. On average, they returned 10% over six months after the fed funds rate peaked.

Of course, only in hindsight is it known whether a rate increase is the last one. But investors have embraced the view that an expected quarter-point hike in the target range for the federal funds rate on July 26 will conclude the epic series that began in March 2022. And surveys by Bank of America Corp. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have found that investors digesting the price action have jacked up their exposure to long-dated bonds.

“We like the idea of extending and adding duration at this point in the cycle,” said Nisha Patel, a managing director of SMA portfolio management at Parametric Portfolio Associates LLC. “Historically, over previous tightening cycles, yields have tended to decline” during the period between the last hike and the first rate cut, she said.

Bonds this week logged their biggest gains since March — when the failure of several regional banks unleashed haven demand — after a report showed consumer prices increased at the slowest pace in two years. Swap contracts that as recently as last week assigned more than 50% odds to another Fed rate increase after this month repriced that to around 20%, and added to wagers on rate cuts next year.

The sentiment shift kneecapped the dollar, which suffered its biggest weekly loss since November. With the European Central Bank and other major monetary authorities expected to remain in tightening mode, there’s probably more downside in store for the greenback, according to strategists at ING Bank N.V.