One of the topics that I am focused on in Davos is the deterioration in the quality of the corporate bond markets.
The disturbing trend is that despite the rally in risk assets in the prior year, the number of defaults rose by approximately 50 percent, according to data compiled by J.P. Morgan. Additionally, the number of distressed exchanges increased by 400 percent.
This correlates well with our observation that the number of idiosyncratic defaults has been increasing. Ultimately, markets will need to reprice for this rising risk with increased bond spreads relative to Treasury securities. However, that day of reckoning when spreads rise is being held off by the flood of central bank liquidity and international investors fleeing negative yields overseas.
And let’s not forget downgrade risk of BBBs: today 50 percent of the investment-grade market is rated BBB, and in 2007 it was 35 percent. More specifically, about 8 percent of the investment-grade market was BBB- in 2007 and today it is 15 percent. It has more than quintupled in size outstanding, from $800 billion to $3.3 trillion. We expect 15–20 percent of BBBs to get downgraded to high yield in the next downgrade wave: This would equate to $500–660 billion and be the largest fallen angel volume on record—and would also swamp the high yield market.
Ultimately, we will reach a tipping point when investors will awaken to the rising tide of defaults and downgrades. The timing is hard to predict but this reminds me a lot of the lead-up to the 2001 and 2002 recession.
The prolonged period of tight credit spreads experienced in the late 1990s lulled investors into unwittingly increasing risk at a time they should have been upgrading their portfolios.
This brings to mind the famous observation by economist Hyman Minsky, who stated that stability is inherently destabilizing. That is to say that long periods of relative stability in risk assets causes investors to keep upping the risk during a long period of calm.
Ultimately, this leads to what he called a Ponzi Market where the only reason investors keep adding to risk is the fear that prices will be higher tomorrow (or in the case of bonds, yields will be lower tomorrow).
Daniel Kahneman observed this behavior in his own work, when he identified that investors’ fear of missing an opportunity induces them to buy when they should be selling.
Even though the recession clearly has been put off until 2021 and perhaps 2022, in the lead-up to the 2001 recession, credit deterioration started to be evidenced three years earlier in 1998 as defaults and credit spreads were rising.
This would sound like good news for yield starved investors and I would agree.
But patience will lead to bigger opportunities for disciplined investors who don't wander off into exotic asset classes or chase current returns.
This material is distributed or presented for informational or educational purposes only and should not be considered a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product, or as investing advice of any kind. This material is not provided in a fiduciary capacity, may not be relied upon for or in connection with the making of investment decisions, and does not constitute a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell securities. The content contained herein is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal or tax advice and/or a legal opinion. Always consult a financial, tax and/or legal professional regarding your specific situation.
This material contains opinions of the author, but not necessarily those of Guggenheim Partners, LLC or its subsidiaries. The opinions contained herein are subject to change without notice. Forward looking statements, estimates, and certain information contained herein are based upon proprietary and non-proprietary research and other sources. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not assured as to accuracy. Past performance is not indicative of future results. There is neither representation nor warranty as to the current accuracy of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information.
Guggenheim Investments represents the following affiliated investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC: Guggenheim Partners Investment Management, LLC, Security Investors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Investment Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, GS GAMMA Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Partners Europe Limited and Guggenheim Partners India Management.
©2020, Guggenheim Partners, LLC. No part of this article may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission of Guggenheim Partners, LLC.
Guggenheim Investments represents the investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC ("Guggenheim"). Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC is an affiliate of Guggenheim.
Read a prospectus and summary prospectus (if available) carefully before investing. It contains the investment objective, risks charges, expenses and the other information, which should be considered carefully before investing. To obtain a prospectus and summary prospectus (if available) click here or call 800.820.0888.
Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.
*Assets under management is as of 06.30.2022 and includes leverage of $18.3bn. Guggenheim Investments represents the following affiliated investment management businesses of Guggenheim Partners, LLC: Guggenheim Partners Investment Management, LLC, Security Investors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, Guggenheim Funds Investment Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Partners Advisors, LLC, Guggenheim Corporate Funding, LLC, Guggenheim Partners Europe Limited, Guggenheim Partners Japan Limited, GS GAMMA Advisors, LLC, and Guggenheim Partners India Management. Securities offered through Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC.
Guggenheim Investments. All rights reserved.
Research our firm with FINRA Broker Check.
• Not FDIC Insured • No Bank Guarantee • May Lose Value
This website is directed to and intended for use by citizens or residents of the United States of America only. The material provided on this website is not intended as a recommendation or as investment advice of any kind, including in connection with rollovers, transfers, and distributions. Such material is not provided in a fiduciary capacity, may not be relied upon for or in connection with the making of investment decisions, and does not constitute a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell securities. All content has been provided for informational or educational purposes only and is not intended to be and should not be construed as legal or tax advice and/or a legal opinion. Always consult a financial, tax and/or legal professional regarding your specific situation. Investing involves risk, including the possible loss of principal.