Environmental, social, and governance investing is reaching a new market just about every month these days, but ESG blew past a huge one this week. Socially conscious investing capped a quarter of all new debt sales. Between corporations and countries, the ESG movement pushed out $391 billion in new debt this year. Companies like Enel SpA are leading the way in Italy, being pushed by the strong arm of European governments. The goal is to have Europe be a leader in climate change. However, investors are paying a premium to get ahold of the bonds. What many are calling ‘grenium’ is the excess being commanded by these socially conscious investments as practically everyone in the bond market is tracking ESG ratings.
FINSUM: Europe is a leader in the ESG movement, but its bond market might be a bit saturated. Look to the American or even emerging markets to get a piece of socially conscious bond investing.
The bond market seems to have lost all touch with reality. Yields are extremely low, and given the more relaxed inflation reading this month, seem likely to stay pinned. Now consider this: European corporate debt real yields just turned negative. Yes, you are paying for the privilege of holding corporate debt. The ICE BofA index of European high-yield bonds is now at 2.34%, well below inflation.
FINSUM: Is there were ever a sign of a peak, this is it. Bond yields have nowhere to go but up, as there is no defensible logic that they could sustainably move lower. Unfortunately, it seems as though bonds and equity could move hand in hand, as the catalyst for big losses would be the Fed, which would trigger both asset classes.
Chinese regulators have come after everything from internet companies to education platforms, and this has left many investors skittish. Investors that would have maintained their convictions would have been well-suited, as since mid-August Chinese internet companies have bounced. Over this same time frame the MSCI Emerging Market Index, which holds a large share of Chinese companies, has doubled the return in the S&P 500. China’s focus on future regulation will better promote growth moving forward. The structure formed may benefit semiconductor companies, smart manufacturing, alternative energy, machine learning, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles, and other internet-related companies. Finally, Chinese companies have been quick to undue overwrought regulation and long-term regulation will be moderate.
FINSUM: Investors shouldn’t be too fickle with China, don’t spend too much time trying to nail regulatory swells, and embrace the long haul.
When you say bond legend, only one name likely comes to mind (let’s leave Gundlach out of this for a minute): Bill Gross. And old Bill always has an opinion, and this week it is a very strong one: “bonds are trash”. Bill says that bonds are now in the investment garbage can because Fed tapering in the first half of 2022 will likely cause a rise in Treasury yields from 1.3% now to 2% next year, causing an overall loss of around 3% over the next 12 months. According to Gross, “Cash has been trash for a long time but there are now new contenders for the investment garbage can. Intermediate to long-term bond funds are in that trash receptacle for sure”.
FINSUM: This is logically sound, but the timing is entirely dependent on the Fed.
Morningstar has added a lot of coverage to their model portfolio universe this year. Earlier in 2021 they expanded their coverage of ratings to 1500 model portfolios, an increase of 50%. Of all those funds reported on, only two of them took home their coveted gold rating: the Vanguard CORE series and the BlackRock Target Allocation ETF. Vanguard was noted as having highly diversified index funds and rarely making portfolio changes. Other funds that got acclaim, such as their silver rating, include American Funds Growth & Income and the American Funds Tax Aware Growth & Income series.
FINSUM: The world of model portfolios has grown nearly as dizzying as that of ETFs so these Morningstar guides are a big help.
The bond market has had a good year. For the last several months, yields have been falling and corporate bonds have seen big gains this year thanks to better earnings and ratings upgrades. Munis have been a big success too. But one area has been even hotter: ESG bonds, which have will see over $1 tn of issuance this year. To put that in perspective, it would be more than double what was issued in 2020. JP Morgan explained the big surge in ESG best, with their head of ESG debt capital markets saying “What began with ‘why should I issue?’ is now ‘why aren’t you? … your absence in the market says something now”.
FINSUM: ESG is fully mainstream now and seems to be gathering more and more assets/issuance. What will this do to issuance in clear non-ESG sectors?