Displaying items by tag: rates
Muni bonds are seeing yields way above average right now even as Treasury bonds linger near all-time lows. The reason why is that it is increasingly apparent that there has been a huge erosion in municipal credit quality alongside the lockdown. Costs have surged at the same time as revenues have plummeted, leading to a significantly deteriorated financial picture for municipal issuers. The has been exacerbated by the fact that municipalities have largely been unsupported by the Fed as opposed to corporate issuers. But the sell-off has created opportunity, as even AAA issuers are seeing big discounts and much higher than usual spreads to Treasuries.
FINSUM: This is all about careful credit selection, as there are big opportunities, but there may also be major pitfalls.
The muni market is at an interesting crossroads. There have been big fears that the current lockdown might be a huge negative for muni credits. The lockdown not only raises costs, but it constrains tax revenue at the same time. On its own, this is a big threat. However, the Fed has set up a liquidity facility particularly for states and municipalities to borrow, which is a major help. That said, analysts say some credits will be excluded. The problem is that the Fed has put limits on the size of cities and counties able to participate, as well as fairly onerous language, such as municipalities having to promise that they cannot “secure adequate credit accommodations from other banking institutions”.
FINSUM: The Fed’s restrictions on this program are surely going to constrain its efficacy. So, on the whole this seems like good news, but not as good as investors would like.
This is a difficult time to be any kind of investor, but being one trying to get yields out of equities is particularly hard-bitten at the moment. Dividends are being cut left and right, so investors need to turn to other options, but much of fixed income looks very scary. That said “Quality yield is on sale”, according to a fund manager at Tocqueville Asset management who specializes in income investments. “Don’t ignore the rest of the capital structure”, says another fund manager at Socoro Asset Management. For instance, look for things like a JP Morgan Chase preferred security with a fixed coupon of 5% and yield-to-call of 7.72%, or Invesco’s Variable Rate Preferred ETF (VRP), yielding 4.85%.
FINSUM: These are good suggestions. For a yield that will really knock your socks off, take a look at the Virtus Private Credit Strategy ETF (VPC), which owns many BDCs and CEFs and has been beaten up in the selloff, but yields a whopping ~18% net of expenses.
New York is the epicenter of the US coronavirus crisis, and the hit it is taking to its finances may be an example of the risk that the muni bond market is facing all across the country. Government revenue is taking a huge cut at the same time as expenditure to support the economy and its people is jumping. While the threat of a downgrade from its AA perch is only moderate, New York does have several other muni issuers that are looking much more dangerous. For example, the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) and the Transitional Finance Authority (TFA). The MTA, which runs the subway and other forms of public transportation, has taken a massive revenue hit during the lockdown, with ridership down 90%.
FINSUM: Certain muni credits are gong to be devastated. For instance, even though the MTA is getting $4 bn from the recent CARES act, it is still yielding 5% versus the 2% it yielded before the Covid eruption.
Income investors have been frightened by the extent to which the current Coronavirus downturn is going to cause an economic downturn and thus a big cut to dividends. The only good news on this front recently has been that companies are suspending buybacks before dividends. In assessing the damage, Goldman Sachs says overall dividend payouts are going to be slashed by 25% this year. That figure includes a 38% fall for the next nine months added to the 9% rise in dividends in the first quarter.
FINSUM: This is big, but it would be far from catastrophic levels.