The Long View

Chart of the Week

A visual snapshot of the trends shaping the economy and the market.

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What is the State of Corporate Bond Liquidity?

By James Faunce | September 21, 2017

Since the financial crisis, investment grade corporate bond trading volumes have almost doubled. 2017 volumes are projected to total $4.1 trillion, compared to $2.1 trillion in 2007. However this doesn’t tell the whole story – the size of the overall market has tripled over this time period. As a result, liquidity, measured as volumes relative to the overall market, is down quite meaningfully. Today’s chart shows that volumes currently represent 86% of the market while in 2007 they came in at over 120%. This steady decline is due to numerous factors, but a large contributor is the increased regulatory oversight, most notably the Volcker rule which has limited bank investment capabilities.

I’m not an Economist, But…

By Scott Ellis | September 14, 2017

I am certainly not an economist, but when a Barron’s article early in September highlighted an obscure but potentially troubling economic data point, I had to find out more. The Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia produces monthly coincident indexes for each of the 50 U.S. states. These monthly indexes describe recent trends and are further combined into a diffusion index value. More specifically, these indexes focus on four state-level indicators to summarize current economic conditions. The variables in this coincident index include nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing by production workers, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average) – per the Philadelphia Fed’s website.

Corporate Bond Credit Quality Moving Lower with Yields

By Mark Heppenstall | September 7, 2017

This week’s chart highlights the dramatic shift in credit quality for the corporate bond market during the past 30 years. Investment grade rated corporations have been on a 30-year borrowing binge judging by the increasing weight of BBB-rated credits in the Bloomberg Barclays Corporate Index. U.S. companies are taking advantage of lower and lower borrowing costs and embracing the use of higher leverage. Nearly half of the index is made up of BBB credits today ─ double the level from 30 years ago. Despite more than 60 companies being rated AAA in the 1980s, only Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft remain as the two U.S. companies with the top rating.

Washington DC, North Korea Have Skew at Multi-Year Highs

By John Swarr | August 31, 2017

Despite the S&P500 (SPX) being less than 2% off the all-time high it achieved a mere three weeks ago, market signals are suggesting that investors are beginning to turn bearish on equities. Turbulence within the Trump administration, the potential for a government shutdown, and tension with North Korea all have investors nervous as volatility starts to pick up after a historically low period the past several months. As a sign market participants are wary of a pullback in equities, traditional safe-haven assets such as gold and the Japanese Yen have been rallying since mid-July.

The Grind is Real

By Jason Merrill | August 24, 2017

In spite of domestic political unrest and continued geopolitical uncertainty, the markets have enjoyed a surprising amount of stability since September 2016. Spreads have continued to grind tighter and tighter, begging the question, “how low can you go?” When spreads are at the tights across most sectors, cross-sector relative value becomes a more important form of differentiation between investments – and definitely more interesting during a summer of weak supply and low market volatility!

Rating Changes Signal Balanced Credit Trends

By Greg Zappin | August 17, 2017

Despite criticism for acting too slow or being backward looking, rating agencies and the credit ratings they assign are still relevant in the corporate bond market today. Ratings trends can be a useful, albeit imperfect, tool to access over credit quality in the market and sometimes offer a source of alpha if future ratings direction can be correctly anticipated. Non-financial credit ratings are based on fairly transparent criteria, particularly the leverage and profitability metrics. It’s the qualitative judgments about competitive position, industry dynamics and financial policy that are grey areas. While new issue ratings have proven to be an accurate gauge of default risk over time, the timing of subsequent ratings actions is a big market gripe. Ratings are meant to look through cycles, which can create big gaps between an issuer’s ratings and bond pricing and current fundamentals.

Benign Economic Environment, Low Market Volatility

By Zhiwei Ren | August 10, 2017

Low volatility has been the hallmark for this year’s market. We have seen the lowest level on record for the volatility index (VIX) and the lowest realized volatility in the S&P 500 Index. The reason we have such low volatility in the market is clear: The macro environment is very benign and investors know it.

It’s a Cruel Summer for Alpha-Seeking Investors

By Jennifer Ripper | August 3, 2017

Summer conjures up warm memories of family vacations, lazy days, endless ice cream, amusement rides, walks on the beach, barbeques, and of course, occasional heat waves. Bananarama’s summertime hit “Cruel Summer,” which touches on oppressive heat, climbed the Billboard charts in 1984. Appropriately, the music video was shot during a heat wave.

For some investors, it may seem like a cruel summer with limited opportunities to generate alpha. It certainly feels like most major markets are heating up as risk premiums continue to grind tighter, leaving investors commiserating.

U.S. Corporate Bonds Are Losing Their Appeal to Overseas Investors

By James Faunce | July 27, 2017

For the last several years, we have noted the extremely strong technical backdrop supporting investment grade (IG) corporate credit spreads. With the global rate environment extraordinarily depressed from prolonged accommodative central bank policies around the world, investors have diligently been seeking yield. In fact, with the 2016 launch of the European Central Bank’s (ECB) Corporate Sector Purchase Program (CSPP) for eligible euro-denominated corporate debt, the universe of corporate credit opportunities has become even smaller, keeping spreads very firm globally.

Credit Markets: Throwing Caution to the Wind

By Scott Ellis | July 20, 2017

Many investors are struggling to find attractive investment opportunities in today’s environment. One can choose from waiting on the sidelines in cash, investing in government bonds (10-year U.S. Treasuries 2.3%), investment grade bonds (+105 basis points (bps) in the U.S.), high yield bonds (+439 bps in the U.S.) or equities (S&P 500 Index is up ~10% year-to-date) and other more esoteric and less liquid investments such as private equity, venture capital and real estate. Central bankers around the world have been using their balance sheets to buy the most liquid and least risky investments, and as a result, bringing the yields down significantly. Because of this, investors have been moving further down the risk spectrum in hopes of attaining the same returns they once were able to achieve. The central bankers’ actions have left other investors to fight for the remaining investable assets.



Disclosure Statement

The material provided here is for informational use only. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Penn Mutual Asset Management.

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This material is for informational use only. The views expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Penn Mutual Asset Management.  This material is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and it is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy.

Opinions and statements of financial market trends that are based on current market conditions constitute judgment of the author and are subject to change without notice.  The information and opinions contained in this material are derived from sources deemed to be reliable but should not be assumed to be accurate or complete.  Statements that reflect projections or expectations of future financial or economic performance of the markets may be considered forward-looking statements.  Actual results may differ significantly.  Any forecasts contained in this material are based on various estimates and assumptions, and there can be no assurance that such estimates or assumptions will prove accurate.

Investing involves risk, including possible loss of principal.  Past performance is no guarantee of future results.  All information referenced in preparation of this material has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness are not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the information and Penn Mutual Asset Management shall have no liability for decisions based upon such information.

High-Yield bonds are subject to greater fluctuations in value and risk of loss of income and principal. Investing in higher yielding, lower rated corporate bonds have a greater risk of price fluctuations and loss of principal and income than U.S. Treasury bonds and bills. Government securities offer a higher degree of safety and are guaranteed as to the timely payment of principal and interest if held to maturity.

All trademarks are the property of their respective owners. This material may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission.

Copyright © 2014 Penn Mutual. All Rights Reserved. All trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

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