FOR some years now there has been a global boom in bonds with their prices rising as their yields fell.
Also, there has been a boom in "bond substitutes" — boring but secure (high-quality) companies whose shares reliably pay a high dividend yield.
The liveliness of these dual asset booms has advanced so far as to be called bubbles. Something too good to be true usually is.
But defining the presence of a bubble is not the same as signalling the end of them or suggesting an exit. Exits are only really warranted once bubbles have been thoroughly harvested. Premature exiting is as big a sin as doing so belatedly.
The accepted norm is to be half-clever by taking out insurance and starting to walk away slowly from abnormality.
It is safe to say that just about everything is deeply abnormal. Yet, as was pointed out in a Financial Times article at year-end, global markets aren't broken at all. Overvalued bonds may still have a profitable window for now.
It is a personal view that our times will not end chaotically, primarily because we have the means to address the aftermath of great financial crises.
As things stand, the incurred systemic damage has been deep and the psychological damage worse. Some investors may have done well out of all this hardship, but many retail investors have been badly shaken.
A long and painful road still stretches ahead, as it has done after every great historic financial disaster.
It suggests that the lemming-like favouring of "pure" bonds may not be over yet.
Retiring baby boomers want bonds for their perceived long-term security and pension fund managers like to hold bonds to underpin the guarantees they have made to retirees.
It will pay investors to watch the performance of those safe, rich-dividend stocks known as "bond substitutes". At some point, the market may swivel out of this asset class and into more exciting growth stocks, such as those in emerging markets.
Certainly, if global repair and recuperation proceeds successfully and is accompanied by much central bank baby-sitting to keep interest rates low, one would expect equities to do well globally.
Traditional "normality" will come again in time and will require the renewed shifting of portfolio allocations. But, for now, be careful not to assume too much in terms of how and when things will change.
* Bruggemans is a consulting economist at FNB
* This article was first published in Sunday Times: Money & Careers