Displaying items by tag: credit
Everyone is watching the BBB bond market with a very close eye. The bottom fringe of the investment grade market, it saw an extraordinary jump in issuance over the last few years. Now, with rates rising, it looks very vulnerable. However, all that suspicion hasn’t amounted to much as investors have kept the area afloat. Ratings agencies and the IMF have both warned about the startling growth of BBB issuance, but so far, the sector is holding up.
FINSUM: Don’t be fooled. There is a massive amount of BBB debt and when a recession finally arrives alongside much higher rates, there seems bound to be a reckoning. That said, there are pockets of the market, like utilities credits, that seem like they will hold up better.
One of the best indicators of stock market performance is actually in bonds. Because they trade based on fundamentals, high yield bonds tend to be strong leading indicators of stock performance. With markets swinging all over the place, now might be a good time to see what junk bonds are doing. The answer is that the sector looks to be in good shape, with spreads holding steady and no real sign of concern.
FINSUM: Junk is probably not going to really worry until we get very near, or into an inverted yield curve, as a recession would be rough on the high yield market.
Something very ominous has been occurring in junk bond markets over the last week. The lowest tier of junk credits—which had been outperforming the market for much of this year—have been getting hammered. There has been a crash in CCC credits. According to Bank of America, since early October CCCs “have lost 3.25% in total and 3.50% in excess returns … effectively wiping out five months of performance”. That contrasts with the highest quality credits in the junk universe, which appreciated.
FINSUM: CCC had been doing quite well, so one can see this either as a normal return to earth, or early signs of trouble.
Investors need to face reality (not that they aren’t), this Fed is more hawkish than any since the Crisis, and despite the market turmoil there will be yet another hike before the end of the year. Rates will keep rising so long as the economy stays strong. That means investors need to prepare. They have mostly done so by fleeing bond funds, but that may not be wise, as there are some very attractive funds that can help offset interest rate risk. For instance, check out the ProShares Investment Grade—Intr Rt Hdgd (IGHG) and the iShares Interest Rate Hedged Corp Bd ETF (LQDH). IGHG is particularly interesting because while both funds go long corporate bonds and short treasuries to produce zero duration, IGHG holds less BBB rated bonds and has a higher quality portfolio, all of which has let the fund appreciate this year even as rates rose strongly.
FINSUM: There are some very solid and creative bond funds out there to help offset rate risk while still earning decent yields. Given where equities are right now, these seem like good buys.
Italy looks like it is in bad shape. It is openly defying the EU’s budget rules by running an excessive deficit, and what’s worse, it looks likely to be downgraded to junk status by ratings agencies. Moody’s already downgraded the country to Baa3, its lowest investment grade rating and just one rung above junk status. Yields have been swinging wildly on the country’s bonds as a result.
FINSUM: We are quite worried about the implications if Italy gets downgraded to junk, as it could mean lots of funds need to sell the bonds because of their mandates. What kind of sell-off could that spark?