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I have a Fidelity account and have started looking for CA GO's. Fidelity's pickings are slim. I find only 3 medium term bonds (2018 maturity) which are currently unattractive. Is this a function of the thin pickings in the bond market right now, or is it a function of Fidelity not having a good selection?

Yes. Both factors. By contrast, a scan for CA GO's at E*Trade returns 1155 hits. The same scan run at Zions Direct would offer about the same number.

The necessary conclusion is that what Fidelity does best (or any other broker also offering bonds as part of its product offerings, such as Scottrade, Ameritrade, Vanguard, Schwab, etc.) isn't bonds, because bonds are a customer accommodation for them, not one of their main interests or strengths. It's no different than with any other retail product. E.g., if you're interested in buying a fly rod, you don't go to Dick's Sporting Goods even though you might find a couple of fly rods in their racks. That's not their expertise. That's not the fishing crowd they cater to.

Said another way, Fidelity does some interesting, proprietary things with how they rank bonds, but they suck majorly in terms of breadth of inventory, ease of doing scans, etc. Ditto the aforementioned brokers. No matter how good they might be about other things, providing bonds to their customers isn't one of them.

Standard Disclaimers: I have, or have had, accounts with all brokers mentioned, plus others.

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