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Corporate Credit Conditions: Part 4
ICE BofA US High Yield Index Effective Yield FRED:BAMLH0A0HYM2EY
In part 4 we look at the all in yield of investment grade ( IG ) and high grade (HY) credit, and why, despite OAS spreads resting at long term median, there still may be considerable investment value in the all-in-yields of short to intermediate maturity IG notes and ETFs. Understand, this discussion does not constitute an investment recommendation, only an illustration of a portion of my corporate investment and evaluation process.
The yield of a corporate security is primarily comprised of two elements, the base rate and the credit spread. The base rate is the treasury rate (either real or extrapolated) at the matched point of the yield curve and the credit spread is the compensation for the higher default risk and the occasional periods of higher than normal volatility. The combination of the two is the all-in-yield.
In other words, when you purchase a corporate bond, you receive a base rate (the risk free treasury rate) instrument with a compensatory credit spread. In most periods, the yield premium serves to reduce the volatility of the corporate compared to the treasury. In other words, corporate returns are generally driven by changes in treasury rates. There are exceptions. In 2008 all-in-yields rose sharply (to all-time highs) even as rates fell. In this period, the widening was entirely due to widening credit spreads rather than rising rates. The sharply wider credit spread reflected fear of massive defaults (which were not realized).
Currently the ICE BofA Investment Grade Corporate Index (C0A0) all-in-yield is 6.24%. This for an index with an 8.3 year duration. This is the highest all-in-yield since June 2009 and picks up roughly 244 basis points ( bps ) to the duration matched point on the Treasury curve (extrapolated from the US Treasury daily par curve). When adjusted for expected default and downgrade risk, the all-in-yield is attractive, even given the growing evidence of a new downgrade cycle.
Unfortunately, the index (and LQD ) has a duration over 8 years. This implies that for every 100 basis point increase in yield (whether driven by increases in yield or spread), that the investment will lose roughly 8%. Clearly, an investment in the IG index has a tremendous amount of rate risk. Assuming another 100 bps increase in Treasury rates and perhaps 100 basis points of spread widening implies a roughly 16% decline (8 year duration, x 200 bps higher in yield), consuming three full years of yield. Unless you believe that yields and spreads have peaked, there is considerable risk in the trade.
Due to the flatness of the curve, front end corporates with their much shorter durations offer much better risk reward profile. For instance, the effective yield of the 1-5 year investment grade index (CVA0) is 5.38% and the duration is only 2.65 years. In other words, only a 100 bps give in yield with only about 1/3 of the rate/spread risk. If the combination of five year rates and spreads increase 200 bps over the next year, the -5.3% implied price change would consume only one year of the investments yield. Anything less than a cumulative 200 bps would produce a positive nominal return.
High yield with its shorter duration (roughly 4 years) and at major resistance in the 9.5% range is also interesting mathematically. The beginning yield of 9.5% provides tremendous cushion against the combination of rising base rates and widening credit spreads. Extrapolated over two three and five year periods, losses and defaults would have to be extreme to create negative period returns.
Once a fundamental relative value proposition is reached, traditional technical tools can be employed to design a trade and set risk management levels. Throughout this series we have made the case that the largest driver of corporate returns is the change in treasury rate. Begin by assessing the treasury charts (in this case 2 and 5 year Treasuries). After assessing those charts, move to more specific corporate charts. Begin by looking at broad index yield and OAS charts and then drop directly to charts that more closely resemble the proposed trade in terms of duration and credit quality. There are investment grade and high yield ETFs and funds available in most ratings and maturities.
And finally, many of the topics and techniques discussed in this post are part of the CMT Associations Chartered Market Technician’s curriculum.
Stewart Taylor, CMT
Chartered Market Technician
Taylor Financial Communications
Shared content and posted charts are intended to be used for informational and educational purposes only. The CMT Association does not offer, and this information shall not be understood or construed as, financial advice or investment recommendations. The information provided is not a substitute for advice from an investment professional. The CMT Association does not accept liability for any financial loss or damage our audience may incur.