Bonds: IG

(New York)

We look like we are on the brink of a big downgrade in bonds that could spread chaos across the fixed income markets. Big rating agencies have not taken concrete steps yet, but investors have been assuming they will, as yields on BBB rated bonds have jumped, with $300 bn now above the 6% threshold. Many high-yielding companies, like airlines and cruise lines, have seen their yields skyrocket. According to Wells Fargo, “As the probability of a recession rises, so does the potential for downgrades and defaults, leaving us unwilling to wave the white flag for corporate credit”.

FINSUM: The downgrades are inevitable at this point, but at least the market has already been adjusting, so it will be less chaotic when it happens.

(New York)

Sudden downturns and crises have a knack for exposing underlying weakness in asset classes, and this coronavirus shock looks likely to expose corporate bonds. As investors will know, there are trillions of Dollars worth of bonds hanging on the lower cusp of investment grade at the same time as high yield issuance has surged in recent years. A quick reversal in economic fortunes could quickly cause soaring yields, delinquency, and bankruptcies. This would lead to a sharp drop in bond prices and potential economic disruptions.

FINSUM: Two key points to make on this story. Firstly, the corporate bond market is now worth $10 tn, 10x the size of 2001. Secondly, because many high yield bonds are illiquid and difficult to trade in periods of uncertainty, investors will try to offload other assets instead, which can spread the panic to other asset classes.

(New York)

For many months there has been a great deal of fear about the threat of BBB bonds falling into the “junk” category. The whole fear is based on the idea that as the economy slows, this huge group of companies would get downgraded and there would be forced divestiture, sending bond prices strongly lower. However, the opposite has happened. Over the last few months, BBB bonds done nothing but strengthen. In fact, the spread between BBBs and Treasuries just hit a 52-week low, showing investors renewed faith in what is the largest segment of corporate bonds.

FINSUM: Unsurprisingly, the price growth has led to a bunch of new issuance. It is important to remember that though prices have risen, the risk of a recession and downgrades is still very much there.

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