Investment-Grade Corporate Bonds: Reversal of Fortune
A dovish Fed, strong fundamentals, and growing demand support investment-grade corporate bond sector performance.
The first quarter of 2019 saw an unprecedented rally in spreads due largely to the swing in macroeconomic and central bank policy perceptions. Investor sentiment shifted abruptly alongside the Fed policy pivot, highlighted by a surge in investment-grade fund inflows. The resurgence of demand from overseas investors across the credit curve was also integral in the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond index spread rally of 44 basis points, a retracement from wides of 163 basis points in December.
The market experienced strong inflows into investment-grade funds during the first quarter of 2019, a sharp reversal from the fourth quarter. These inflows, combined with an underwhelming new-issue market, provided a strong technical backdrop for the broader market rally. The most startling surprise was the corporate spread rally, which occurred despite the sharp decline in Treasury yields. The last time the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond index traded at the current spread of 119 basis points, in November 2018, the corresponding yield was 4.29 percent, well north of the 3.63 percent registered at the end of the quarter.
Investment-Grade Corporate Bond Fund Flows See Sharp Reversal
The market experienced strong inflows into investment-grade funds during the first quarter of 2019, a sharp reversal from the fourth quarter.
Source: Guggenheim Investments, Investment Company Institute, Bloomberg. Data as of 3.31.2019. Includes flows of investmentgrade corporate mutual funds as reported by ICI and of the iShares iBoxx $ Investment-Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD), the largest U.S. Investment-Grade Corporate ETF.
The bearish rhetoric around BBB credit—including concerns over sector leverage, a looming recession, BBBs’ disproportionately high representation in the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Bond index, and the ability of the high-yield corporate bond market to absorb a potential deluge of downgrades—drove the dramatic widening of spreads in the fourth quarter of 2018. This widening promptly reversed in the first quarter, as a result of the dovish stance of the Fed, which suggested a return to lower-for-longer rate projections. As a result, BBB corporates outperformed single- As by 12 basis points year to date. Despite a strong first quarter for BBB spreads, the spread ratio of BBBs to single-As reveals plenty of room for further compression.
Plenty of Room for Further BBB Spread Compression
Despite a strong first quarter for BBB spreads, the spread ratio of BBBs to single-As reveals plenty of room for further compression.
Source: Guggenheim Investments, Bloomberg Barclays. Data as of of 5.31.2019. Note: OAS = option-adjusted spread.
As both domestic and foreign buyers add corporate risk, investors now have a renewed opportunity to clean up their portfolios, shed riskier securities, and shift their portfolios to higher-quality investments better suited to a recessionary environment.
—Jeffrey Carefoot, CFA, Senior Managing Director; Justin Takata, Managing Director
Important Notices and Disclosures
This article is distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investing advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. It contains opinions of the authors but not necessarily those of Guggenheim Partners or its subsidiaries. The authors’ opinions are subject to change without notice. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but are not assured as to accuracy. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
Investing involves risk. In general, the value of fixed-income securities fall when interest rates rise. High-yield securities present more liquidity and credit risk than investment grade bonds and may be subject to greater volatility. Asset-backed securities, including mortgage-backed securities, may have structures that make their reaction to interest rates and other factors difficult to predict, making their prices volatile and they are subject to liquidity risk. Investments in floating rate senior secured syndicated bank loans and other floating rate securities involve special types of risks, including credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk and prepayment risk. 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.
©2019, 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.
Portfolio Manager Steve Brown and Brian Smedley, Head of the Macroeconomic and Investment Research Group, explain that while the Federal Reserve's pause in policy has supported a rally in most credit sectors, investors should worry about excesses continuing to build this late in the cycle.
Anne Walsh, Chief Investment Officer for Fixed Income, shares insights on the fixed-income market and explains the Guggenheim approach to solving the Core Conundrum.
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 3.31.2019 and includes leverage of $11.3bn. 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. Securities offered through Guggenheim Funds Distributors, LLC, an affiliate of Guggenheim, SI, GFIA and GPIM.
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.