Tag Archives: Junk Bonds

Why The Junk Bond Selloff Is Getting Scary

High-yield bonds have led previous big reversals in S&P 500

https://i2.wp.com/ei.marketwatch.com//Multimedia/2015/12/11/Photos/ZH/MW-EB083_Hallow_20151211124813_ZH.jpg

The junk bond market is looking more and more like the boogeyman for stock market investors.

The iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond exchange-traded fund HYG, -2.34%  tumbled 2.4% in midday trade Friday, putting the ETF (HYG) on course for the lowest close since July 2009. Volume as of 12 p.m. Eastern was already more than double the full-day average, according to FactSet.

While weakness in the junk bonds — bonds with credit ratings below investment grade — is nothing new, fears of meltdown have increased after high-yield mutual fund Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund TFCIX, -2.86% TFCVX, -2.70%  on Thursday blocked investors from withdrawing their money amid a flood of redemption requests and reduced liquidity.

 

This chart shows why stock market investors should care:

FactSet

When junk bonds and stocks disagree, junks bonds tend to be right.

The MainStay High Yield Corporate Bond Fund MHCAX, -0.19%  was used in the chart instead of the HYG, because HYG started trading in April 2007.

When investors start scaling back, and market liquidity starts to dry up, the riskiest investments tend to get hurt first. And when money starts flowing again, and investors start feeling safe, bottom-pickers tend to look at the hardest hit sectors first.

So it’s no coincidence that when the junk bond market and the stock market diverged, it was the junk bond market that proved prescient. Read more about the junk bond market’s message for stocks.

There’s still no reason to believe the run on the junk bond market is nearing an end.

As Jason Goepfert, president of Sundial Capital Research, points out, he hasn’t seen any sign of panic selling in the HYG, which has been associated with previous short-term bottoms. “Looking at one-month and three-month lows [in the HYG] over the past six years, almost all of them saw more extreme sentiment than we’re seeing now,” Goepfert wrote in a note to clients.

by Tomi Gilmore in MarketWatch


Icahn Warns “Meltdown In High Yield Is Just Beginning”

Amid the biggest weekly collapse in high-yield bonds since March 2009, Carl Icahn gently reminds investors that he saw this coming… and that it’s only just getting started!

As we warned here, and confirmed here, something has blown-up in high-yield…

With the biggest discount to NAV since 2011…

The carnage is across the entire credit complex… with yields on ‘triple hooks’ back to 2009 levels…

As fund outflows explode..

And here’s why equity investors simply can’t ignore it anymore…

If all of that wasn’t bad enough… the week is apocalyptic…



Icahn says, it’s only just getting started…

As we detailed previously, to be sure, no one ever accused Carl Icahn of being shy and earlier this year he had a very candid sitdown with Larry Fink at whom Icahn leveled quite a bit of sharp (if good natured) criticism related to BlackRock’s role in creating the conditions that could end up conspiring to cause a meltdown in illiquid corporate credit markets. Still, talking one’s book speaking one’s mind is one thing, while making a video that might as well be called “The Sky Is Falling” is another and amusingly that is precisely what Carl Icahn has done. 

Over the course of 15 minutes, Icahn lays out his concerns about many of the issues we’ve been warning about for years and while none of what he says will come as a surprise (especially to those who frequent these pages), the video, called “Danger Ahead”, is probably worth your time as it does a fairly good job of summarizing how the various risk factors work to reinforce one another on the way to setting the stage for a meltdown. Here’s a list of Icahn’s concerns:

  • Low rates and asset bubbles: Fed policy in the wake of the dot com collapse helped fuel the housing bubble and given what we know about how monetary policy is affecting the financial cycle (i.e. creating larger and larger booms and busts) we might fairly say that the Fed has become the bubble blower extraordinaire. See the price tag attached to Picasso’s Women of Algiers (Version O) for proof of this.
  • Herding behavior: The quest for yield is pushing investors into risk in a frantic hunt for yield in an environment where risk free assets yield at best an inflation adjusted zero and at worst have a negative carrying cost. 
  • Financial engineering: Icahn is supposedly concerned about the myopia displayed by corporate management teams who are of course issuing massive amounts of debt to fund EPS-inflating buybacks as well as M&A. We have of course been warning about debt fueled buybacks all year and make no mistake, there’s something a bit ironic about Carl Icahn criticizing companies for short-term thinking and buybacks as he hasn’t exactly been quiet about his opinion with regard to Apple’s buyback program (he does add that healthy companies with lots of cash should repurchases shares). 
  • Fake earnings: Companies are being deceptive about their bottom lines.
  • Ineffective leadership: Congress has demonstrated a remarkable inability to do what it was elected to do (i.e. legislate). To fix this we need someone in The White House who can help break intractable legislative stalemates. 
  • Corporate taxes are too high: Inversions are costing the US jobs.

Ultimately what Icahn has done is put the pieces together for anyone who might have been struggling to understand how it all fits together and how the multiple dynamics at play serve to feed off one another to pyramid risk on top of risk. Put differently: one more very “serious” person is now shouting about any and all of the things Zero Hedge readers have been keenly aware of for years.

* * *

Finally, here is Bill Gross also chiming in:

Oil Bust Contagion Hits Wall Street, Banks Sit on Losses

https://i1.wp.com/www.bloomberg.com/image/iptmX9f9f1vc.jpgby Wolf Richter

Oil swooned again on Wednesday, with the benchmark West Texas Intermediate closing at $60.94. And on Thursday, WTI dropped below $60, currently trading at $59.18. It’s down 43% since June.

Yesterday, OPEC forecast that demand for its oil would further decline to 28.9 million barrels a day next year, after having decided over Thanksgiving to stick to its 30 million barrel a day production ceiling, rather than cutting it. It thus forecast that there would be on OPEC’s side alone 1.1 million barrels a day in excess supply.

Hours later, the US Energy Information Administration reported that oil inventories in the US had risen by 1.5 million barrels in the latest week, while analysts had expected a decline of about 3 million barrels.

So the bloodletting continues: the Energy Select Sector ETF (XLE) is down 26% since June; S&P International Energy Sector ETF (IPW) is down 34% since July; and the Oil & Gas Equipment & Services ETF (XES) is down 46% since July.

Goodrich Petroleum, in its desperation, announced it is exploring strategic options for its Eagle Ford Shale assets in the first half next year. It would also slash capital expenditures to less than $200 million for 2015, from $375 million for 2014. Liquidity for Goodrich is drying up. Its stock is down 88% since June.

They all got hit. And in the junk-bond market, investors are grappling with the real meaning of “junk.”

Sabine Oil & Gas’ $350 million in junk bonds still traded above par in September before going into an epic collapse starting on November 25 that culminated on Wednesday, when they lost nearly a third of their remaining value to land at 49 cents on the dollar.

In early May, when the price of oil could still only rise, Sabine agreed to acquire troubled Forest Oil Corporation, now a penny stock. The deal is expected to close in December. But just before Thanksgiving, when no one in the US was supposed to pay attention, Sabine’s bonds began to collapse as it seeped out that Wells Fargo and Barclays could lose a big chunk of money on a $850-million “bridge loan” they’d issued to Sabine to help fund the merger.

A bridge loan to nowhere: investors interested in buying it have evaporated. The banks are either stuck with this thing, or they’ll have to take a huge loss selling it. Bankers have told the Financial Times that the loan might sell for 60 cents on the dollar. But that was back in November before the bottom fell out entirely.

As so many times in these deals, there is a private equity angle to the story: PE firm First Reserve owns nearly all of Sabine and leveraged it up to the hilt.

The same week, a $220-million bridge loan, put together by UBS and Goldman Sachs for PE firm Apollo Group’s acquisition of oilfield-services provider Express Energy, was supposed to be sold. But investors balked. As of December 2, the loan was still being marketed, “according to two people with knowledge of the deal,” Bloomberg reported. If it can be sold at all, it appears UBS and Goldman will end up with a loss.

And so energy-related leveraged loans are tanking. These ugly sisters of junk bonds are issued by junk-rated corporations, and they have everyone worried [Treasury Warns Congress (and Investors): This Financial Creature Could Sink the System]. Their yields have shot up from 5.1% in August to 7.4% in the latest week, and to nearly 8% for those of offshore drillers [“Yes, it Was a Brutal Week for the Oil & Gas Loan Sector”].

Six years of the Fed’s easy money policies purposefully forced even conservative investors to either lose money to inflation or venture way out on the risk curve. So they ventured out, many of them without knowing it because it happened out of view inside their bond funds. And they funded the fracking boom and the offshore drilling boom, and the entire oil revolution in America, no questions asked.

Energy junk bonds now account for a phenomenal 15.7% of the $1.3 trillion junk-bond market. Alas, last week, JPMorgan warned that up to 40% of them could default over the next few years if oil stays below $65 a barrel. Bond expert Marty Fridson, CIO at LLF Advisors, figured that of the 180 “distressed” bonds in the BofA Merrill Lynch high-yield index, 52 were issued by energy companies. And Bloomberg reported that the yield spread between energy junk bonds and Treasuries has more than doubled since September to 942 basis points (9.42 percentage points).

The toxicity of energy junk bonds is spreading to the broader junk-bond market. The iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF fell 1.2% to $88.43 on Thursday, the lowest since June 2012. And at the riskiest end of the junk-bond market, it’s getting ugly: the effective yield index for bonds rated CCC or lower jumped from 7.9% in late June to 11.4% on Wednesday.

After not finding any visible yield in the classic spots, thanks to the Fed’s policies, institutional investors – the folks that run your mutual fund or pension fund – took big risks just to get a tiny bit of extra yield. And to grab a yield of 5% in June, they bought energy junk debt so risky that it now has lost a painfully large part of its value, and some of it might default.

Oil and gas are inseparable from Wall Street. Over the years, as companies took advantage of the Fed’s policies and issued this enormous amount of risky debt at a super-low cost, and as they raised money by spinning off subsidiaries into over-priced IPOs that flew off the shelf in one of the most inflated markets in history, and as they spun off other assets into white-hot MLPs, and as banks put now iffy bridge loans together, and as mergers and acquisitions were funded, at each step along the way, Wall Street extracted its fees.

Now the boom is turning into a bust, and the contagion is spreading from the oil patch to Wall Street. Energy companies are cutting back. BP, Chevron, Goodrich…. They’re not cutting back production by turning a valve. They’ll keep the oil and gas flowing to generate cash to stay alive, and it will contribute to the glut.

Instead, they’re cutting back on exploration and drilling projects. It will hit local economies in the oil patch and ripple beyond them. As energy companies slash their capex and their stock buybacks, they’ll borrow less, those that can still borrow at all, and there won’t be many energy IPOs, and there may not be a lot of spinoffs into MLPs or any of the other financial maneuvers that Wall Street got so fat on during the fracking and offshore drilling boom. The fees will dry up. And some of the losses will come home to roost on bank balance sheets.

The contagion is already visible on Wall Street. Susquehanna Financial Group downgraded Goldman Sachs to neutral on Wednesday, citing the mayhem in the oil markets and the impact it has on junk bonds and leveraged loans and the other financial mechanism by which Goldman’s investment and lending divisions sucked fees out of the oil patch and its investors. And this is just the beginning.