Bonds: Total Market

(New York)

When the Republican tax reform package came out last year, there were fears that the changes could cause weakness in the muni market. However, while those potential long-term challenges remain, the reality is that the tax changes have helped the muni market considerably. The reason why is that the lack of SALT deductions means that many more investors have a strong inventive to buy muni bonds. This has kept yields low and demand robust, as for a high income couple in states like New York, a local muni bond yielding 3% is equivalent to a taxable corporate bond yielding over 6%.

FINSUM: Given the way that the new tax package heavily incentivizes muni income, we expect demand and prices to remain robust.

(New York)

Anyone who pays attention to the bond markets will know that there has been an extraordinary run up in BBB rated bonds since the Financial Crisis. From just $700 bn worth of bonds in 2008, to a whopping $3 tn now. Using the metaphor that such bonds, which are just one rung above junk, are like the dead trees and limbs in the forest before a fire, Barron’s is predicting big problems. The trigger is likely to be the next recession, which would cause many BBB bonds to fall down into the junk category. This would spark mandatory selling by many funds, leading to sharp losses for investors. What’s worse, such bonds, at an average yield of 4.3%, are not compensating investors for this risk, as they have only a 60 bp spread to A rated bonds.

FINSUM: There are bound to be a lot of fallen angels and losses in the next economic downturn. As one analyst summed it up, “With all this dry tinder lying around, it wouldn’t take much to set off a raging fire”.

(New York)

A lot of investors are worried about the potential for an inverted yield curve, and not just because of what it could mean for markets and the economy. If you are holding long-term bonds that will be yielding less than shorter-term bonds, you are likely going to be incentivized to reshuffle your holdings. Accordingly, Citigroup has come out with a first of its kind product that allows retail investors to fully redeem the principal on their bonds if the yield curve inverts. According to Bloomberg the “30-year constant maturity swap rate can sink as much as 10 basis points below the two-year rate before holders start incurring losses”. Continuing, “The products pay a coupon and return full principal as long as the spread remains greater than that level”.

FINSUM: This seems a bit sophisticated for most retail investors, but it is definitely an interesting product and potentially a good one for hedging.

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