It was one of the wonders of the age. Why, this column has asked repeatedly over the last two years, are pension funds buying long-dated UK government stocks on yields of less than 2 per cent? It is true that the regulations have progressively forced their investment policy into holding fewer of those nasty, unpredictable shares, but as we have seen in the last fortnight, the so-called “risk-free return” on government stocks is an illusion for the convenience of actuaries.
Any pension fund, or indeed, any other investor who had kept the money in cash and short-dated stocks and resisted the pressure to buy then would have given up around 1 per cent a year in income. That sum looks like dirt-cheap insurance today. The fall in the price of long-dated stock this year, and its sickening lurch last week, offers the prospect of buying on a yield of 4.5 per cent or so.