If you are looking for some good muni bonds to add to your portfolio, take a look at an interesting new offering from a group of US universities. Georgetown, University of Pennsylvania, and Rutgers have all issued “century” muni bonds, and they may prove a good investment. Rutgers’, as an example, yields 3.9% and has an A+ rating, a significant spread to the typical 3.2% yield on other long-term muni bonds. Even BBB bonds, which are in a tenuous position, are only yielding 3.2%.
FINSUM: The yield is great, but your great grandchildren will be getting the principal back!
Remember when everyone was really worried about corporate bonds several months ago? A lot of that anxiety faded as yields tumbled. That led companies to once again issue mountains of debt this year. Now, we are circling back towards worries over a recession, and with that progression there is reason to worry about corporate bonds, especially the BBB variety. The big anxiety, as ever is that a whole section of the BBB bonds universe (the lowest rung of investment grade) will get downgraded to junk status in a recession, causing a massive selloff.
FINSUM: So these fears are not new, but the likelihood of a recession appears to be growing. Here is what really worries us—the BBB market is enormous, amounting to $3 tn in the US versus just $1.2 tn for the whole high yield bond market.
It was uncertain for a while, and still is, but markets are increasingly expecting the Fed to cut rates again this month. Investors now put around a 75% chance that the Fed will slash rates by another 25 bp this month. The interesting thing is at the beginning of this week, the market’s odds were under 40%. However, the release of weak manufacturing data a few days ago sent expectations surging that the Fed would once again step in.
FINSUM: New jobs report data out today will only bolster the case for further rate cuts.
Utilities just hit a new high. So what else is new. Utility stocks have been surging this year alongside falling rates, and they are not the only ones. Consumer staples, consumer discretionary and even tech have been rising strongly. Not only do the dividends look appealing, but the stable earnings profile is attractive given the threat of a downturn. What is most impressive is that utilities have held up even though value has been surging. According to Goldman Sachs “With the Fed cutting rates again this week and the 10-year yield at 1.78% [now 1.71%], utilities continue to perform well, despite NT headwinds as broader momentum trades reversed slightly”.
FINSUM: As long as there is downward pressure on rates, we suspect dividend stocks will be strong. But it wouldn’t take much to reverse that.
Treasury bonds and their associated funds just had one of the worst periods on record. Specifically, they had their worst week since Trump was elected. The iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF fell 6.2% in a week, the sharpest drop since bond markets panicked on Trump’s surprise election. What is odd about the big drop is that the stock market remained relatively muted throughout. Usually, big losses in Treasuries come when there is a big risk-on rally in stock markets.
FINSUM: There has been a huge rally in bonds, and in the last week, a lot of the pessimism has faded from markets as economic data is relatively stable and trade war fears are ebbing. Accordingly, this could be the start of a real rout.