Typically seen as the low-risk, low-return options, Treasury-bond funds have actually outperformed U.S. and international stock funds in the past decade, Sam Mamudi noted in the Wednesday edition of the Wall Street Journal Fund Track. The column also contained recommendations from Morningstar director of investment research Russ Kinnel
for investors who want to own Treasurys through mutual funds. Though Kinnel thinks Treasurys "might not be a good place going forward," he said investors should have a little amount in those vehicles at all times. He recommended Vanguard's line of offerings due to their low cost and gave special mention to the Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Fund
In the article, Mamudi wrote that Treasury funds experienced an annualized gain of 5.2 percent, on average. U.S. stock funds, on the other hand, saw annualized returns of only 2.1 percent in the same period, and the average international stock fund gained 4.7 percent. Treasury-bond funds were only out-earned by high-quality corporate-bond funds, which netted average annualized returns of 5.6 percent, but carry a high-risk.
The funds also performed well last decade, with an average annualized return of 6.7 percent between 1989 and 1999. However, stock funds ruled the market in those years, with an annualized gain of 15.7 percent for U.S. stock funds, and a 10.4 percent gain for international stock funds.
"[The] decade that saw two bear markets and fairly tame inflation," Kinnel told Mamudi. "In the 1990s, Treasurys would have been the worse place to have been. It speaks to how things go in cycles."
So, although Treasury bond funds are glowing, the future might not be so bright. With the 10 year Treasury yield around 3.4 percent, plus the "duration risk," which is the risk that inflation or interest rates will increase in the next years, the fund type might start to see fewer gains.
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