Eq: Large Cap

(New York)

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.

(New York)

The market has been highly unpredictable of late, with big swings in both directions. While no one knows where the market is headed, one thing is pretty clear: there are a handful of big stocks that look very risky and should probably be avoided. Here is a full list: Carvana, Expedia, Norwegian Cruise Lines, Lyft, Restoration Hardware, Beyond Meat, FirstSolar, Zendesk, BioMarin Pharmaceuticals, and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD).

FINSUM: Carvana and Expedia are the most interesting for us. Carvana is considered disruptive in auto buying and is up 535% in the last year. It is also losing money hand over fist, and its digital-first method of buying and delivery looks less and less effective as the economy reopens (especially because Carvana’s prices for consumers are high). Expedia is more simple: it is up big this year on hopes that travel bookings will recover strongly this year and next. But why is it currently trading at a 40% premium to the S&P 500? Doesn’t make sense to us.

(New York)

High yield bonds are in an interesting place. After yields fell very low during the core of the pandemic, the bonds looked relatively less attractive. Now, jumping Treasury yields have hit the asset class, but junk credit is relatively less affected because of its shorter maturities and higher yields. The reality though, is that even with things starting to look better given the recovery in the economy, it is a risky time. Therefore, junk debt is an area where active management might be the right choice. Individual credits can react very differently to market forces, and it takes a good deal of research to really understand the companies.

FINSUM: High yield managers are known for resisting the excesses of their asset class, something that index funds cannot do. Therefore, in risky times, it might be a good idea to stay active.

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