The recession has loomed over markets for months. However, in recent weeks those worries have faded a bit, especially as the Fed appeared to back off the gas pedal on rate hikes. However, a new survey from Bank of America Merrill Lynch shows that recession is the top fear among investors currently. A third of credit investors surveyed see a recession as their top fear. That is the highest level for a single worry in almost two years. Economic data is expected to continue to weaken, say investors.
FINSUM: The US seems to once again be the last one standing as the whole world starts to slow. Can we hold up yet again?
High yield had a very bleak run to finish 2018. The asset class went over 40 days without a single sale as the junk credit market seized up. However, it has made a comeback in a major way. The first five weeks of 2019 saw a staggering 5.25% gain in the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index. New issues were quite oversubscribed (more than double), and the general mood has completely shifted.
FINSUM: The Fed backing off on rates sure makes a difference! It is interesting the market reacted this sharply given that high yield is relatively more insulated from rates. In our view, the turnaround is largely a relief rally that the Fed won’t push the economy into a recession.
Some advisors are always searching for the next blow up on the horizon. Well, with that in mind, Fitch has just put out a warning to investors that the next big market storm will likely start in credit funds. Fitch’s warning is predicated on the well-trod idea of a liquidity mismatch between the daily liquidity that open-end bond funds offer, and the relative illiquidity of their underlying holdings. In December, open-ended loan funds saw steep withdrawals, which led to big losses.
FINSUM: This is a fairly well-covered topic, but it is still a big risk. It has not yet happened on a major scale, but if it did, the potential for losses is massive.
There are currently a lot of fears about corporate credit’s ability to sink the economy and markets. There has been an absolute massive surge in issuance since the Financial Crisis, and a great deal of that issuance happened in credits just on the bottom fringe of investment grade. And while a good amount of that debt may founder and sink into junk, it won’t be enough to hurt the economy much. The reason? It is because US households have not increased their leverage significantly in recent years, which is likely to prove a saving grace for the economy. Growth in household debt has been lower than inflation, a sign of relative health.
FINSUM: While corporate credit can get markets in trouble, so long as the American consumer is not deleveraging, things will probably not get too bad in the wider economy.
The junk bond market may be coming back from the dead. The “December doughnut”, as it is being called, is now in the past, and the frozen market finally thawed this week with the first new junk bond sale since November. The market had gone 41 days without a sale until Tuesday, when $4 bn of new issuance went through.
FINSUM: A 41-day freeze and then 4 sales in one day totaling over $4bn. Demand was so high the companies were able to raise more than expected. Maybe the worst is behind the high yield market?