Bond returns have been volatile, despite a very steady inflation rate of 2.6% to 3% in each of the past four years, a report by David L. Babson & Co. says. Since late 1993, long-term bond prices have fluctuated as much as 20%. Their volatility has not returned to anywhere near pre-1966 levels when bonds were safe, secure investments with low price volatility and predictable returns, the report said. Although most investors expected bond prices to return to their traditional placid nature after the double-digit inflation of 1979-'82, that hasn't happened. Bonds are now about as volatile as stocks.