How are European fund selectors allocating to high yield?

Growth in the US and Europe should be sufficiently positive to support earnings momentum this year, keeping defaults in check. However, there remains a risk from increased protectionism, due to President Donald Trump’s policies. Credit fundamentals remain solid, helped by robust economic conditions and decent earnings growth. Despite the significant tightening in yields and credit spreads, the high-yield sector still looks relatively attractive compared to many other asset classes (even in a rising-rate environment). We think the technical picture remains supportive for the European high-yield market. We do not envisage European interest rates moving significantly higher, given continuing political issues, concerns surrounding Greece and ongoing European Central Bank purchases. The US high-yield market, however, could experience some short-term weakness from further interest rate hikes, exchange-traded fund outflows and a weaker oil price.

Uli Gerhard – Insight, a BNY Mellon company

Growth in the US and Europe should be sufficiently positive to support earnings momentum this year, keeping defaults in check. However, there remains a risk from increased protectionism, due to President Donald Trump’s policies. Credit fundamentals remain solid, helped by robust economic conditions and decent earnings growth. Despite the significant tightening in yields and credit spreads, the high-yield sector still … read more

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Why rate hikes in the US won’t kill high yield

While a rate hiking cycle in the US might affect other areas of the fixed income universe, the high yield market basically ignores rate hikes unless they are sharp and steep, which would cause a recession and therefore increased defaults. There is no historic correlation. Meanwhile, investment grade corporate bonds have a greater potential to be affected by duration and have historically been more correlated to interest rates. Another factor to take into consideration is leverage, which has been on a downward trajectory for high yield since the end of 2015. Investment grade firms, in general, have been increasing leverage in order to finance acquisitions or expand in a bid to appease shareholders.

April La Russe, Insight

While a rate hiking cycle in the US might affect other areas of the fixed income universe, the high yield market basically ignores rate hikes unless they are sharp and steep, which would cause a recession and therefore increased defaults. There is no historic correlation. Meanwhile, investment grade corporate bonds have a greater potential to be affected by duration and … read more

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The key to unlocking value in high yield bonds

The market value of the US and European high yield markets has doubled and tripled respectively over the last decade. This is partly because, since the global financial crisis, fewer corporates have been able to receive financing from banks and have turned to non-bank alternatives (such as bonds) instead.

While we believe a nuanced approach to investing in high yield bonds can be beneficial we also view it as a specialist investment area and demanding substantial skill and resource.

Understanding a company’s business profile is one way of mitigating some of the risks associated with investing in the asset class – but to do so requires extensive SWOT analysis and competitor reviews. Free cash flow is one way of determining the issuer’s financial viability. Most companies, both IG and HY do not generate sufficient cash to repay bond debt. HY companies have a greater emphasis on generating free cash flow and this provides a path to refinancing and overall credit quality improvement. The ability for the company to call (redeem early) or not call its bond can also directly impact its value.

At the same time, the terms and conditions regarding a high yield bond can be complicated and term sheets are frequently several hundreds of pages long. They include details regarding structural protections such as seniority (the bond’s priority in the capital structure), security against company assets and debt covenants. The latter can help ensure a bond’s credit quality is not compromised by company management.

A company’s liquidity is another crucial determinant of its ability to repay. When investment grade companies have no cash available to repay the bond’s principal, they can usually draw on a revolving credit facility. However, high yield companies will not typically have a facility that is large enough. Furthermore, for high yield companies the facility is typically secured against inventories, further blocking available sources of liquidity.

Uli Gerhard – Insight, a BNY Mellon company

The market value of the US and European high yield markets has doubled and tripled respectively over the last decade. This is partly because, since the global financial crisis, fewer corporates have been able to receive financing from banks and have turned to non-bank alternatives (such as bonds) instead. While we believe a nuanced approach to investing in high yield … read more

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Restoring default settings

High yield default rates from 1983 - 2013

The maturity cliff for high yield does not begin to look daunting until 2017. That is one reason why default rates have been significantly lower than their long-term average over the past decade and why they may stay low for a few years yet. A rise in defaults might be that elusive catalyst for a sell-off. But the current environment is very benign.

Alex Veroude, Head of Credit, Insight Investment

The maturity cliff for high yield does not begin to look daunting until 2017. That is one reason why default rates have been significantly lower than their long-term average over the past decade and why they may stay low for a few years yet. A rise in defaults might be that elusive catalyst for a sell-off. But the current environment … read more

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Europe’s issues growing

European HY corporate bond issuance

Many issuers coming to the market have increased levels of leverage while issuing bonds with weaker covenants. These are the types of issues we prefer to stay away from. Longer-term, the growing number of poorer-quality deals coming to the market may have an impact on sentiment.

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