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Revisiting Bond vs Loan Relative Value
Opportunities to capture additional yield by moving up in quality are uncommon for fixed income investors, but that’s the dynamic at play today in leveraged credit.
High Yield Credit—First Half 2021 Review and Thoughts for What’s Ahead
Through the first six months of 2021, high yield credit markets have provided an above-coupon return on the back of tighter credit spreads—though this has been somewhat offset by the increase in Treasury yields. The benign credit backdrop and deep bid for yield has favored a down-in-quality approach, particularly among economic reopening beneficiaries. Across the capital structure, loans have benefited from investor focus on rising rates. Loans have provided strong absolute gains so far, but receding inflation expectations led to lower Treasury yields in Q2, which in turn weighed on relative returns for the floating-rate asset class.
High Yield’s High-Quality Overhaul
While most segments of fixed income offer paltry yields with growing risk levels—either credit or interest rate—and valuations that are back to pre-pandemic levels, the high yield market remains one of the few areas that still provides positive real yields while benefiting from a credit quality mix that is at all-time highs.
Give Me Shelter: What a Rising Rate Environment Might Mean for Credit Markets
With vaccination rates ramping and the economy beginning to emerge from its COVID-induced slowdown, the days of record-low interest rates are likely numbered—which raises questions about the broader fixed income environment. While rising rates could mean conventional fixed income areas are in for a relatively rough ride, they could also provide an interesting environment for high yield and leveraged loans, which have historically fared relatively well as rates rise thanks to some potentially overlooked considerations.
Where Might Yield-Seekers Turn Now?
A year of increased asset purchases, new emergency facilities and lower interest rates—unleashed by global central banks in response to the pandemic’s economic disruption—has made it increasingly challenging for investors to find yield in today’s market. As it stands, only about 30% of the world’s bonds trade with yields over 1%. For investors looking to generate income over and above inflation, high yield credit stands as one of the last remaining asset classes that still offers compelling yield opportunities on an absolute and risk-adjusted basis.
Understated Outcomes of an Evolving Covenant Environment
The pandemic’s financial toll has been widespread, but a surprising silver lining has been the relatively short-lived corporate default wave. Default volumes were certainly elevated throughout 2020 but steadily declined over the last several months as risk-seeking capital rushed to meet companies’ liquidity shortfalls. Even more notable, defaults have been relatively rare among COVID-impacted businesses, with most default activity occurring in areas already struggling before the pandemic—not because of it.
Volatility Creates High Yield Opportunity
Escalating concern around the containment of COVID-19 and its impact on global economic growth has sparked an aggressive turn in risk sentiment over the last few weeks. The selloff in noninvestment grade markets has been unprecedented in terms of speed and severity. The repricing of risk has resulted in high yield spreads moving from under 400bps to more than 900bps in just 4 weeks (Exhibit 1). For context, it took 11 months during the 2008 recession for spreads to cross the same threshold, and more than 28 months during the 2000 downturn.
Finding Value Across the Capital Structure
One of my fundamental beliefs about investing in credit markets is it’s possible to find the best risk-adjusted return opportunities through fundamental credit analysis and value identification across the capital structure—flexing between high yield bonds and bank loans. I take a value investor’s approach to the below-investment grade market to look for opportunities tied to dislocation and mispricing.
Identifying Value Amid a Shifting Rates Outlook
Founding portfolio manager Bryan Krug discusses where he’s finding opportunities in the high yield market given the recent move in interest rates.
Credit at a Crossroads
Market volatility at the end of 2018 understandably tipped off an array of analysis—from whether it marked a larger turn in the economic cycle and the market to whether it increased the attractiveness of some investing opportunities. And if the latter, where those opportunities might lie. We believe that despite some signs of economic softening, the broader economic and market cycle are likely not over. Further, volatility has indeed introduced new compelling investing opportunities—though likely not where many would first look.