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?
The bond market is in an odd place right now. For the first part of the year, yields jumped on the threat of inflation. Then in the middle of Spring, those fears started to wane and yields started to fall. Other than a quick reversal of direction off a hot June inflation reading, that has been the trend all summer. However, the whole market looks very vulnerable to a change in sentiment. If inflation comes in warm again for July—especially coupled with some very good jobs numbers—the overall economic picture might move back to bullish, which could swing yields rapidly back in the direction they were headed in Q1.
FINSUM: Essentially this market could quickly realized it mispriced the direction of the economy, so there is a lot of risk for advisors and their clients. Nasdaq and Fidelity are having an interesting webinar on how to plan for this risk. Check it out here.
Munis have had a great year. Ever since Biden’s election, munis have surged in value because of two core assumptions. The first, and by far the biggest, is that taxes were likely to rise with Democrats in power. The second is that the Democrats would be more financially supportive of states and local governments. In the immortal words of Lee Corso, we’re here to say “not so fast!”. The assumption that taxes are going to rise looks weaker and weaker, and the same goes for the financial support for states.
FINSUM: The Democrats were not able to force through tax rises alongside this major infrastructure package, and their chances of getting any tax hikes through before the midterm elections looks poor.
You may not be paying much attention to it, but the last month has been very good for investment grade bonds. The reason why is that ratings agencies are in the midst of a massive wave of upgrades to companies that got downgraded at the start of COVID. This has sent demand for debt soaring as companies re-enter the investment grade market. For example, just in the week ending July 16th alone, the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) pulled in $1.1bn in inflows. According to a credit strategist at Citi, “It’s like something that I have not seen in my time [in the industry] … After the financial crisis we didn’t get major companies moving back to investment grade so quickly”.
FINSUM: This is the early innings of yet another corporate bond bull run. Only credit specialists have mostly paid attention to this point, but investment grade bonds seem a good choice given the credit rating tailwind.
The market took a nosedive in the middle of the day today as investors were walloped with a hot CPI inflation reading. The CPI rose an eye-popping 5.4% in June, with core inflation coming in at 4.5%. The market was anticipating a flat 5.0% CPI number. Indexes turned downward immediately following the report. It should be noted than June 2020 was the nadir of the pandemic inflation readings, so that makes this report look even bigger.
FINSUM: The inflation boogeyman returns. Beware a big sell-off across the board in bonds, especially if the Fed or a member of the Fed makes any tightening comments.
According to a poll of leading bond strategists surveyed by Reuters, there is likely to be a correction in…see the full story on our partner Magnifi’s site.
When you think of all the risks and all the opportunities for the muni market right now, you might be missing one of the very biggest. While a lot of talk has focused on how Biden and the Democrats—and their respective tax packages—could help muni finances, the reality is the drought out West is a big risk to the muni market. 75% of the West is in an extreme drought right now, representing almost 60m Americans. If that continues it could significantly impact muni finances.
FINSUM: Only 26% of the muni market lies in the drought area, which mitigates systemic risk, but very issuers could be badly hit. Be careful of large muni holdings in drought-stricken areas.
Another jobs report hit the tape today, and another good reading, with job growth outpacing expectations. Crucially, there were also no signs of heavy wage growth that could stoke the market’s inflation fears. According, Treasury yields fell across the board, with the short end of the curve falling the most. Analysts feel that the report did not bring the dreaded Fed Taper any closer, which led to the fall in yields. Fed minutes will be released next week and that is the next time the market will get a peek into what the central bank may do next.
FINSUM: Two divergent paths here—either the market is falling into complacency, or the Fed’s view that inflation is “transitory” is starting to come true. It might only take an errant sentence form the Fed to spark a big correction.
According to a poll of leading bond strategists surveyed by Reuters, there is likely to be a correction in bond markets in the next three months. The reason why is that central banks across the world are all looking for the exits from their stimulus programs. The head of strategy at Rabobank commented that “The message from Powell is: We will look through it (inflation). We're not going to jump to conclusions and that creates some calm. But you just need a couple of big surprises (in data) and things are again open to correction”. 59% of those strategists surveyed said they saw a “significant” sell-off in global bond markets coming in the next three months.
FINSUM: This all depends on timing and signaling. If the Fed makes an inadvertently hawkish statement, you could easily see a 2013-style Taper Tantrum. But if the Fed uses careful wording and guidance, the whole transition could be smooth.
The market has been nervous for months about growing inflation in the US. The Fed has tried to appear sanguine about it, and has so far done a decent job of keeping fears in check. However, a blowout inflation report this month, as well as more hawkish comments this week, means that anxiety is rising strongly again. And according to Jeffrey Gundlach, the fears are justified as he believes inflation will not be “transitory” as central bankers have been predicting. One of his core arguments is that inflation may become a self-fulfilling prophecy, where consumers start stocking up on items now to avoid future price rises, which in turn causes shortages and drives prices higher.
FINSUM: The self-fulfilling prophecy is a good near-term argument, but we have a longer-term one: demographics. The largest generation in the history of the US—Millennials—are coming into their peak earning and buying years, which is creating demand for literally everything, and supply is tight across almost all industries. Inflation looks inevitable.