Displaying items by tag: junk bonds
Bonds are incredibly expensive right now, but despite this, they may keep going higher, says Goldman Sachs. The firm is specifically referring to high yield bonds, which are very pricey right now and have low spreads to Treasuries. For example, only 10% of high yield bonds currently trade with spreads above 5 percentage points above Treasuries, compared to 25% in November. This makes Goldman believe the easiest gains are already in the bag, but given that high yield bonds are sensitive to an improving economy and they have appreciated even while Treasuries have fallen, Goldman feels the asset class could be in for more appreciation.
FINSUM: This makes sense. It is also worth noting that historically speaking, high yield bonds have no correlation to the performance of Treasuries.
Until every recently (and even now), junk bond yields were historically low. This was not a surprise since Treasuries were also at historic lows. But the whole situation begs an important question—why are junk bonds so popular when their yields are so low? It seems like an abundance of risk with little return. The answer to the question is that “there is no alternative”. Many fund managers have mandates to invest in a minimum holding of bonds, no matter what their yields. Therefore, when that cash needs to find a home in fixed income, it naturally finds its way towards the highest-yielding bonds, even if those might be quite risky. This helps explains the huge decline in yields since March 2020 (from an average of 12% yield to under 4% in February).
FINSUM: “There is no alternative” (TINA), is the same explanation given for the big rise in equities since after the Financial Crisis, and even since the beginning of the pandemic. Frankly, the argument seems to hold water.
If investors’ eyes are watering from the big jump in yields over the last month, no one could blame them. The steep rise has sideswiped markets and until today, sent the Nasdaq into a full blown correction, with the rest of the market down strongly too. So how can investors protect their portfolios from losses because of yield jumps? One asset class to consider are rate hedged ETFs, such as the ProShares Investment Grade-Interest Rate Hedged ETF (Cboe: IGHG) and ProShares High Yield Interest Rate Hedged ETF (Cboe: HYHG). Both funds go long corporate bonds and short Treasuries, which allows them to remove rate risk, but still keep the benefit of income streams from the underlying corporate bonds.
FINSUM: Rates usually rise when the economy is improving, as is happening now. In these periods, corporate bond spreads usually tighten. So this type of ETF allows you the benefit from the increasing attractiveness of corporate bonds while also protecting against interest rate risk.
Anyone who has been looking at the bond markets is likely to be shocked at the recent moves in the space. Many “high yield” bonds (it is now necessary to use quotes) are yielding what very high quality investment grade bonds were just months ago. A recent sale saw $1 bn of new issuance for a BB+ company at a 3% yield. The huge move downward in bond yields is the result of the Fed’s unprecedented stimulus action, and in particular, their mandate to backstop corporate bonds.
FINSUM: The Fed’s actions have been so warping that they have called into question the very definition of a high yield bond. If every bond is backed by the Fed, then it makes perfect sense that their yields would equalize. In this way the market’s reaction is entirely predictable.
Many have been wondering when junk bonds were going to start feeling pain. Despite the previous risk of recession, junk bonds did quite well over the last several months. However, since the big flare up over coronavirus, they have started to be seriously wounded. On Friday, junk bond spreads to Treasuries were at 366 bp—very low. As of yesterday, they were at 418 basis, a 50bp+ rise in two trading days, showing how much investors fear the economic impact of coronavirus.
FINSUM: We think these spreads are going to keep moving higher, even if stocks level out. Bond investors are a suspicious bunch and an economic slowdown would hit high yield companies harder than average.