Sunday 26th April 2015
NEWS TICKER: FRIDAY, APRIL 24th 2015:Luc Luyet, CIIA – Senior Market Analyst AT Swissquote says that yesterday, “the SNB surprised the market by announcing that the number of sight deposit account holders that are exempt from negative interest has been reduced. This decision doesn’t change much the domestic banks’ situation as the “20 times the minimum reserve requirement” rule is still running. On the other side, the institutions associated with the Confederation, such as the pension fund of the Confederation or the pension fund of the SNB, are no longer exempt of negative interest. Consequently, only the account holders of the national social security system are still fully exempt.” - High yield debt issuance remains buoyant. Issuance volume for the week ending April 17, 2015, slowed down a bit from the previous week, but remained strong. Junk bond, or high-yield debt, issuers continued to issue bonds as yields remained favourable. High-yield debt is tracked by the SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond Fund. According to data from S&P Capital IQ/LCD, dollar-denominated bonds amounting to $10.75bn were issued across 16 transactions in the week ending April 17th. The issuance volume fell by 3.2% from the week ending April 10. Pricing was evenly spread across the week. The number of transactions fell from 18 to 16 week-over-week. Last week brought the total US dollar issuance of high-yield debt to $115.8bn in 2015 YTD, up some 15% from the same period in 2014, the bulk of which is refinancing of older debt - Moody's says EMEA auto ABS performance remained stable during the three-month period ending February 2015. The sector's average performance trend was positive in terms of delinquency ratios and cumulative losses. The 60+ day delinquencies decreased to 0.66% in February 2015 from 0.77% in February 2014, while cumulative defaults decreased to 1.06% from 1.20% over the same period. This decrease was due mainly to the good performance of the German and Dutch markets. The prepayment rate increased slightly to 13.49% in February 2015 from 13.30% a year earlier. As of February 2015, the pool balance of all outstanding rated auto ABS transactions was €27.55bn - According to Sino specialists Red Pulse, China’s State Council is considering allowing daily repatriation for QFII. Currently, RQFII enjoys T+1 repatriation while QFII is restricted to T+5. QFII is the largest channel for foreign investment into China with quota of USD150bn, however, only half of the quota is in use, like at least partly due to the five-day repatriation stipulation - Malaysia’s state pension fund will offer a Shari’a-compliant investment option for its members by 2017, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said today. Najib says it will create the largest Shari’a fund of its kind in the world. Malaysia has one of the world’s largest Islamic finance sectors and the authorities are keen to develop it further. They envision the industry accounting for 40% of the country’s total banking assets by 2020 compared with latest figures of around 23% released last year. The $160bn (MYR577.4bn) Employees Provident Fund (EPF) already invests about a third of its portfolio in stocks and bonds that comply with Islamic principles, which ban interest payments and pure monetary speculation. The fund reportedly hired consultants last year to study the feasibility of a state-backed pension fund focusing entirely on Shari’a-compliant investments. Additionally, local press reports says that Malaysia’s sovereign wealth fund Khazanah Nasional has received regulatory approval to issue a MYR1billion (around $275m) socially responsible Islamic bond - The NASDAQ OMX Group, Inc has declared a regular quarterly dividend of $0.25 per share on the company's outstanding common stock, an increase of 67% from the prior $0.15 per share quarterly dividend. The dividend is payable on June 26TH 2015, to shareowners of record at the close of business on June 12TH 2015 - Lazard Ltd today reported operating revenue1 of $581m for the quarter ended March 31st. Adjusted net income was $103m, or $0.77 (diluted) per share for the quarter. These results exclude a pre-tax charge of $63m relating to a debt refinancing2. Q1 2015 net income on a U.S. GAAP basis, including the pre-tax charge, was $56m, or $0.42 (diluted) per share. "Our Financial Advisory and Asset Management businesses continue their strong performance," says Kenneth M. Jacobs, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Lazard. "In the first quarter, we refinanced and repaid a portion of Lazard's long-term debt, significantly reducing our interest costs," adds Matthieu Bucaille, chief financial officer of Lazard. "Consistent with our capital management objectives, we have increased the quarterly dividend by 17%, the fifth increase in as many years." -

High yield market: Finding fixed-income firepower

Wednesday, 25 July 2012
High yield market: Finding fixed-income firepower With Fed liquidity helping to drive rates in competing asset classes lower, fixed-income mavens have been understandably buoyed by the comparatively attractive risk-adjusted returns of high-yield corporate bonds. Despite consistently strong credit fundamentals, however, the persistence of worrisome global-macro volatility will likely keep high-yield investors on alert throughout the second half of the year. From Boston, Dave Simons reports. http://www.ftseglobalmarkets.com/

With Fed liquidity helping to drive rates in competing asset classes lower, fixed-income mavens have been understandably buoyed by the comparatively attractive risk-adjusted returns of high-yield corporate bonds. Despite consistently strong credit fundamentals, however, the persistence of worrisome global-macro volatility will likely keep high-yield investors on alert throughout the second half of the year. From Boston, Dave Simons reports.

While many segments of the bond market have struggled in the face of plum­met­ing interest rates, one area that has been increasingly attractive to income investors has been high yield. Unlike 2011 which saw long-term treasuries outperform US corporate high yield by a six-to-one margin (according to figures from Barclays Capital), the global high-yield market began the current year in top form, with portions of the sector topping 8% as of late May.

With corporations de-leveraging and balance sheets improving, high-yield fundamentals appear to be sound (and include a record low default rate), while new issuance has been largely limited to extending maturities and boosting liquidity.



Though price action is typically impacted by global-macro volatility concerns (particularly with respect to the situation in Europe), the sector’s aggregate yield has advanced approximately 100 basis points since the start of the year, which could help attract even more investors going forward. Accordingly, many observers remain unusually bullish toward high yield corporate bonds and their attractive risk-adjusted returns, and believe these investments will be aided by the central-banking pro-growth monetary policy of the US and EU.

David Leduc Standish Mellon Asset ManagementDavid Leduc, chief investment officer of Standish Mellon Asset Management’s active fixed income division.Credit fundamentals remain reasonably healthy across most sectors, particularly within the US and developed areas, affirms David Leduc, chief investment officer of Standish Mellon Asset Management’s active fixed income division. “We have been a bit lighter on energy given the recent fluctuation in oil prices and other concerns,” says Leduc, “however on balance we’ve liked what we’ve seen.” Earnings have been strong, says Leduc, and the vast majority of companies have been able to secure financing at historically favorable terms, giving them greater flexibility.

As one would expect, the top end of the yield curve has been shaped for the most part by lower-rated issues, with some CCC-rated products approaching the 10% mark. Emerging-markets high yield has garnered significant interest, while European high yield continues to lead the pack on a global basis. “Euro spreads have been consistently higher,” says Leduc, “which helped the sector outperform during the first part of the year.” Navigating the financial space has been tricky, though, says Leduc. “There have been a lot of fallen angels particularly around European bank sub-debt, and we’ve tended to steer clear as a result.” Attractive opportunities in the US include various issues in the lease-finance sector; communications has had its share of good performers, and Standish Mellon has also benefited from positions in the US auto sector, particularly in light of recent upgrades.

Even those with a reduced appetite for risk have seen returns in the vicinity of 4% or higher from certain higher-rated (BB and B) issues. “Some of the smaller names in Latin America and Asia have paid upwards of 60 basis points (bps) higher than their US counterparts, simply because they may have better credit metrics including lower leverage and higher interest coverage,” says Leduc. “While it might not sound like that big a deal, when you have 10-year treasury bonds yielding less than two percent, it does mean something.”

Brian Kinney State StreetBrian Kinney, managing director at State Street Global Advisors (SSgA).The perception that the Fed will keep rates at low, combined with the positive direction of corporate balance sheets, has helped boost comfort levels, says Brian Kinney, managing director at State Street Global Advisors (SSgA). As such, investors are increasingly viewing high yield as a plausible mechanism with which to diversify away from lower-paying government bonds, or to use high yield in part as a hedge against inflation.

“Not only are clients moving into these types of asset classes in greater numbers, they are doing so in a way that they feel will provide them with the most liquidity,” says Kinney. Given the illiquidity licking that many an investor suffered pre-crisis, it’s not that surprising that the vehicle of choice for high-yield entry has often been exchange-traded funds. During the first quarter alone, roughly 25% to 30% of total high-yield inflows arrived via ETFs, with the majority directed toward State Street’s SPDR Barclays Capital High Yield Bond ETF as well as iShares’ iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (the two funds currently account for an estimated $25bn combined).

Because high-yield ETFs tend to invest in a smaller number of larger, more liquid issuers, there is a bit of a trade-off between liquidity and broad exposure when compared to institutional fixed-income high-yield benchmarks. It’s a sacrifice that many clients have been willing to make, says Kinney. “If you look at the performance of high-yield managers versus the index, on balance the returns haven’t been all that different,” says Kinney. ­“Particularly when you consider the importance of liquidity to investors nowadays, you can see why ETFs have become a legitimate choice for clients in support of high yield.”

Despite the upward trend, managers have been loath to keep the pedal to the medal, given the perpetual ebbs and flows of economic developments both at home and abroad. In contrast to the buoyant first quarter that saw major fund flows into high yield, the economic realities of Q2 subsequently sucked some of the joy back out of the markets; though still north of 5% on an aggregate basis (as of June 30th), corporate high-yield indices have since retraced much of the gains tacked on earlier in the year.

“There could still be a fair amount of volatility into the foreseeable future,” says Leduc, “which is important to keep in mind, particularly when using high yield in accounts that may not be totally dedicated to that asset class. Things have clearly gotten a bit softer in the US during the second quarter, which isn’t all that surprising given the higher-than-average performance we saw during the previous quarter, nevertheless it does bear watching. But there are other things to look out for as well—China’s growth has been slower than the markets had previously expected, and of course Europe continues to struggle with the sovereign-debt problem. So global-growth concerns do remain at the forefront, and even though it’s not our view, should there be a more meaningful pullback in the US economy, that would certainly not be constructive for high yield. While we’re not necessarily building those expectations into our high-yield strategy, it is something we need to be cognisant of as we move forward.”

Still, experts such as Kinney prefer to look at the bigger picture. “The fundamentals story, which is about corporations’ balance sheets, cash on hand, and access to the capital markets is still quite positive,” says Kinney. “If you forget about the spreads and just focus on the absolute yields, you see that corporations are in better shape than they’ve been in years. You also have a very strong technical story in the sense that there is a lot of liquidity in the system right now—and the indirect result of the Fed putting all of this money into the system is that absolute yields in other asset classes have been driven very low. So as a relative-value proposition high yield looks very attractive, particularly in a market that is awash in liquidity and other yields are at their historical lows.”

Despite some suggestions that government regulation has lead to greater inefficiency and the potential for market dislocations, the improved transparency has allowed investors to breathe a bit easier whilst on the high-yield hunt.

“Say what you want about regulation—the fact of the matter is that investors have been able to look at corporate balance sheets and have a much better understanding of what’s actually behind them,” says Kinney. “The ability to analyse and subsequently invest in corporations is probably better than it’s ever been, and that is certainly one of the more positive aspects of the increased disclosure around what corporations are doing with their money. And the high-yield market has really been one of the key beneficiaries of that trend.”

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