Tuesday 3rd May 2016
NEWS TICKER: ASIAN TRADING SESSION - The Nikkei and Topix indexes took the brunt of risk off sentiment today as investors gave a distinct thumb down to last week’s decision by the Bank of Japan not to cut rates further. The Nikkei225 fell 7.41%, while the Topix went down 7.25% in a somewhat bloody trading session. Continuing with the pattern set down for most of this year, the yen by contrast continues to appreciate, touching at one point 105.81 again the dollar, the yen’s highest point for almost two years. The Bank of Japan in response rattled a few sabres, threatening to intervene should the yen appreciate further; but investors continued to test the yen’s upper limit. Yann Quelenn, market analyst at Swissquote noted this morning: “The yen has climbed 13% against the dollar since the start of the year and there a strong support lies at 105.23, which is now clearly on target.” The other story in the Asian session was the surprise move by the Reserve Bank of Australia to cut The Reserve Bank of Australia on Tuesday cut the cash rate to a record low of 1.75 per cent in a bid to head off falling prices and an economic downturn. Market commentators now expect a second cut before the end of the year, although some say the June quarter inflation figure, out in August, will determine the RBA's next move. The latest cut puts Australia firmly into the group of countries with an ultra-loose monetary programme, or should that be a noose around falling interest rates and bond yields. Reserve Bank governor Glenn Stevens said the decision was based on last week's surprisingly weak inflation figures. "Inflation has been quite low for some time and recent data were unexpectedly low," he said in a statement. The AUDUSD fell to 0.7572 from 0.7720 on the news, though the ASX All Ordinaries rose 1.94% on the day, with the S&P/ASX100 rising 2.24%. The index is now up 6.8% on the month, though up only 1.32% over the year. Aside from China and Australian indexes, boards across the region ran red for most of the session. The S&P BSE Senses was down 1.75%. The Kospi100 was also off by 1.50%, while in Singapore the Straits Times took a beating, losing 4.39% today, bringing it down 0.26% over the month and down 2.58% over the year. The Hang Seng also had a tough day, falling 3.68% today, though it is up by 0.87% over the month and down 5.65% over the year. In China, the Shanghai Composite was up 1.13% in trading today, though it is still down 0.56% over the month and down 15.44% over the year. The Shenzhen Composite had a better day, up 3.29%, and is up 1.45% over the month, but still down 16.45% on an annualised basis. The upbeat market sentiment was interesting, given that the Caixin Manufacturing PMI weakened to 49.4 in May from 49.7 in April, softer than market expectations and marking a 14th month of contraction; data that usually would have sent investors to the hills. Go figure. The data indicated that softness in labour markets and exports continue. Meantime, the central bank set the USDCNY mid-point at 6.4565. There is still mixed data emanating from China. Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s latest China: An Equity Strategist’s Diary research report highlights the nugget that YTD 241 non-government bond issuances have been cancelled or postponed, 120 of which were deferred in April, compared with 315 across the whole of last year. Some 709 bonds worth a total of RMB1.04trn came to market in last month (an 85% success rate). However, says the bank, if the bond market corrects sharply, sectors that rely most on the credit markets to support their day-to-day activities (including developers, banks, brokers, industrials and utilities) could suffer disproportionately as their reliance on credit has grown significantly during the past six months. Among the 120 bond issues affected in April, 70% were from industrials (50 bonds), financials (18) and materials (17). The bank also says a perceived implicit government guarantee on bonds and other moral hazards in the shadow banking sector, including wealth management products, is largely behind the mispricing in corporate credit. With the country’s overall default risk perceived to be low, bonds have become a cheap source of long-term financing for corporations compared to other traditional credit products. At the end of April, an AA+ rated five-year bond yielded 4.3% while the benchmark rate for a one-year to five-year loan was 4.75%. A five-year AA- rated bond offered 6.6%. The overnight repo rate annualised was 2%; seven-day repo, 2.5%; six-month discounted bill, 3%; and the one-year benchmark loan rate came in at 4.35%. Alternative sources of finance cost between 12% and 15% for P2P; 8% for a two-year trust; 19% for private lending in Wenzhou; and 18% to 20% for offline wealth management companies. BAML says a sharp uptick in the number of corporate defaults, coupled with the increasing number of cancelled or postponed bond issuances, shows that the market is starting to reprice risk although this process could last until the end this year. The peak maturing period is April/May with between RMB80bn and RMB790bn of bonds maturing over the period. From June onwards maturities fall to around RMB600bn a month for the rest of the year—SAUDI ARABIA—In another move to liberalise the Saudi Arabian capital markets, the Capital Market Authority (CMA) has approved a request by the Saudi bourse to relax settlement cycles for investors, making the country’s inclusion in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index more likely from next year. It has also announced an overhaul of foreign ownership regulations for listed companies, as it seeks to encourage participation by international institutional investors in a wide ranging programme of privatisations. The CMA announced today that it was widening the definition of Qualified Financial Investors (QFI) to include financial institutions such as sovereign wealth funds and university endowments as well as banks. The regulator says the minimum value of assets under management for QFIs will be reduced to SAR3.75bn (about $700m), compared with the current level of SAR18.75bn ($3.5bn). From the end of June 2017, QFIs will be able to own up to 49% of a company’s capital, “unless company’s bylaws or any other regulation provides for foreign ownership to be limited to a lower percentage". Individual QFIs will be able to own up to 10% of a company’s share capital, compared with the current level of 5%. Foreign investment is now an important element in the government’s wide-ranging economic diversification program, which will also involve partial privatisation of some of the country’s key state owned firms. Over the last few weeks Saudi has signalled its intention to list a 5% stake in Saudi Aramco, a move that could raise in excess of $100bn. The opening of the Saudi stock exchange, the GCC’s largest, to QFIs in June of last year was hailed as a milestone at the time, but has so far failed to attract large scale foreign investment into Saudi equities. Licensed QFIs to date include Blackrock, Ashmore Group, Citigroup and HSBC. However, up to now the firms, in combination own less than 0.1% of the Tawadul’s market capitalisation—STOCK EXCHANGE NEWS—Börse Stuttgart reports turnover in excess of €6.7bn in April 2016. The trading volume was almost on a par with the previous month. Securitised derivatives accounted for the largest share of the turnover. The trading volume in this asset class was more than €2.7bn. Leverage products contributed more than €1.4bn to the total turnover, while the trading volume of investment products was more than €1.2bn. At more than €1.4bn, turnover from equity trading at Börse Stuttgart was around 9% higher than in the previous month. German equities accounted for more than €1.1bn of the total turnover – an increase of more than 7% in comparison with March - while international equities contributed about €299m. Trading in debt instruments generated turnover of around €1.6bn in April, with trading volumes almost as high as in the previous month. Corporate bonds accounted for the largest share of the turnover, with approximately €918m.The order book turnover in exchange-traded products (ETPs) was more than €916m in April. Trading in investment fund units generated turnover of €8m —ASSET MANAGEMENT —Aberdeen Asset Management says pre-tax profits have fallen to £98.8m in the six months to March 31st, down from £185.4m over the same period a year earlier after investors have backed off from emerging markets. The asset management has been affected by changes in end investor asset allocation choices as fund outflows over the period amounted to £38.2bn (£16.7bn on a net basis says the asset management maven); however, the pace of outflows has slowed, compared with the previous six months, when investors withdrew £41.7bn (£22.6bn in net basis). Aberdeen has £292.8bn worth of assets under management, down from £330.6bn a year ago, although it marked an improvement on the £283.7bn at its financial year-end. Despite the challenges, Aberdeen has been active in turning around its fortunes, promising to cut annual costs by £70m by 2017 and has diversified its business proposition by a series of acquisitions, including the takeover of hedge-fund manager Arden, risk-graded portfolio provider Parmenion, and fund-of-funds investment manager—CORPORATE NEWS—Advance Utilico Emerging Markets Ltd says it has has extended its £50m senior secured multi-currency revolving credit facility with Scotiabank for a further two years to April 2018. Shares in Utilico are down 0.1% to 176.75 pence—SPANISH ELECTIONS – Looks like Spain is heading for another hung government. News agency The Spain Report says the latest poll of polls data from Electograph shows only minor changes compared to the results of the last general election on December 20th last year. The order of the parties remains the same: PP, PSOE, Podemos, Ciudadanos and United Left. No party is currently forecast to be close to an overall majority, of 176 out of 350 seats in Congress. Over the past four months, polls have at times suggested a slight shift towards a right-wing PP-Ciudadanos coalition and, in the latest round, the possibility that a joint Podemos-United Left electoral list might overtake the Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) as the reference for the Spanish left, says the news agency—POLITICAL RISK—maven Red24 advises professionals to avoid visiting Kabul. The firm reports that yesterday, the US Embassy, issued a statement warning of an increased threat of attacks in the Taleban’s spring offensive (Operation Omari) against Afghanistan's government and its Western-backed allies, including the US, on April 12th. Crowded public areas, police and military interests, foreign embassies, foreign guest houses, hotels and government buildings/sites have been listed as probable targets; no information was provided regarding the timing of any planned attacks. Red24 says Taleban attacks in Afghanistan generally increase during the spring and summer months, which generally extend until September, when warmer weather allows militants greater access through usually snowed-in mountain passes from their traditional strongholds along the mountainous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. “Given the extreme and ongoing threat of terrorism in Afghanistan, such warnings by government authorities are taken seriously and regularly result in additional security force deployments. The warning is particularly pertinent given the attacks carried out in the capital on 19 April, following the launch of the offensive, in which at least 24 people were killed as a result of a car bomb attack, in the vicinity of several government ministries and the US Embassy in the Pul-e-Mahmood Khan and Shahr-E-Naw areas. Further incidents are expected to persist,” says the firm in an alert issued today.

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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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