Author: CAM Team

09 Apr 2021

2021 Q1 Investment Grade Quarterly

It was a challenging first quarter for corporate bonds as rising interest rates were a headwind for performance across the fixed income universe. Investment grade credit spreads were a bright spot, having shown resiliency during the quarter, but tighter spreads could not overcome volatile interest rates. The option adjusted spread (OAS) on the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Bond Index compressed 5 basis points during the quarter, opening at 96 and closing at 91. It was only a little more than a year ago when the global pandemic had roiled markets, sending the spread on the index all the way out to 373. The tone has improved substantially since last March and spreads are now tighter than their narrowest levels of last year when the index opened 2020 at an OAS of 93.

Higher Treasuries were the negative driver of performance for credit during the quarter. The 10yr Treasury opened 2021 at 0.91% and was volatile along the way before closing the quarter at 1.74%. This 83 basis point move in the 10yr over such a short time period was too much to overcome for coupon income and spread compression. The Corporate Index posted a total return of -4.65% during the first quarter. This compares to CAM’s gross quarterly total return of -3.50%.

First Quarter Recap

Excess return presents a picture of the performance of credit spread and coupon income, excluding the impact of Treasuries. The sector that posted the best excess returns to start the year was Energy. This should come as no surprise as oil prices were up over 20% during the quarter and Energy was the worst performing sector for the full year 2020. It was ripe for a rally. Packaging was the lone major industry to post a negative excess return during the quarter of just -0.05%. This is in line with the larger theme in the market currently that has made more cyclical sectors in vogue as the pandemic recovery trade was in full force. This has left some more stable and defensive industries as out of favor at the moment. The recovery trade theme has also led to outperformance for riskier BBB-rated credit versus higher quality A-rated credit. BBB-rated credit outperformed A-rated during the quarter to the tune of 85 basis points on a gross total return basis – a significant number to be sure. We will see, as the year plays out, if this reach for yield can sustain its outperformance over a longer time horizon. We believe that some of the move in cyclicals has been overdone and as a result the portfolio is positioned with a more defensive posture than the index.

Investing in a High Rate World

After the corporate index posted a cumulative gain of almost 25% over the previous two years through the end of 2020, most of it on the back of tighter spreads and lower rates, it is fair to expect a pull-back at some point. The current quarter’s performance can almost entirely be defined by Treasuries reclaiming some of the ground that they gave up during the pandemic. Recall that the 10yr Treasury closed as high as 1.88% in the early months of 2020 before falling as low as 0.51% in August of last year and now closing the first quarter of 2021 at 1.74%. But there is more to the story than a higher 10yr Treasury and a closer look at the Treasury curve reveals some more interesting details, particularly the spread between the 5yr and 10yr Treasury. As you can see from the below chart, the 5/10 Treasury curve has steepened substantially over the course of the past year.

CAM consistently positions the portfolio in maturities generally ranging from 5-10 years and there are several reasons that we have structured our investment grade program around this intermediate positioning. First, our customers will know precisely what they are going to get from us in that they can see the exact quantity of each individual company bond that they own and they can count on us to be positioned within a certain maturity band. This allows the client to more effectively manage other portions of their asset allocation accordingly without worrying that we might engage in interest rate speculation or a wholesale change in strategy. The second reason we have settled on this maturity positioning is that it exposes clients to less interest rate risk than the benchmark and far less interest rate risk than if we went further out the curve by purchasing 30yr bonds. We are good at credit work; building customized portfolios, populating them with individual credits based on our analysis of their credit worthiness and reaping those rewards over a 3-5 year time horizon. Our intermediate positioning allows our returns to be driven by credit spread compression and not by our ability to accurately time interest rates. The third and perhaps most important reason that we settled on this intermediate positioning as part of our core strategy has to do with the steepness of both the Treasury curve and the corporate credit curve from 5 to 10 years. Over long time periods this tends to be the steepest portion of both of those curves relative to the curve as a whole.i To provide some context, at quarter end, the 10/30 Treasury curve was 67 basis points; that is, the compensation afforded for selling a 10yr Treasury and buying a 30 year Treasury was an additional 67 basis points in yield, or 3.35bps of yield per year for each year of the 20 year maturity extension. If we compare this to the 5/10 curve at quarter end when that particular curve was 80 basis points, or 16 basis points of extra yield for each of the 5 years between 5 and 10yrs, you can see that the 5/10 curve is significantly more steep than the 10/30 curve. You are extracting much more compensation from selling a 5yr bond and extending to 10yrs than you would get from selling a 10yr bond and moving all the way out to 30 years. Not only is an investor being much better compensated for each additional year from 5/10 but they are taking substantially less interest rate risk by limiting their extension to just 10 years in lieu of 30 years. As you can see from the above chart, the 5/10 curve flattened all the way down to 7 basis points during the worst of the pandemic-related market dislocation but it has since steadily risen, and is now at its highest level since the 3rd quarter of 2014.

To say we are excited about this newfound steepness in the Treasury curve would be an understatement –we are ecstatic, as it allows us to do two things. First, it allows seasoned accounts (those who have been with us at least 3-5 years) to extract attractive compensation by selling their 5yr corporate bonds and using those proceeds to purchase bonds that mature in 8 to 10 years. For those accounts that have been with us for less time or for new accounts it provides an attractive entry point for new money that can take advantage of the roll-down afforded by the steep yield curve. The roll-down to which we refer is the aforementioned 16 basis points per year that a bond was receiving at quarter end for each year that it declined in maturity.
But the bond math doesn’t stop there. On top of the Treasury curve is another curve, the corporate credit curve. Since corporate bonds trade with spread on top of Treasuries they also have their own curve that varies with steepness over time. The shape of the corporate credit curve is more consistently upward sloping than the Treasury curve. Treasury curves, at times, can flatten or even invert. The corporate credit curve on the other hand is almost always upward sloping.ii It only rarely flattens or inverts on a temporary basis during times of extreme market stress or dislocation, and we are happy to take advantage of those fleeting opportunities when they do appear.

As you can see from the chart above, the yield curve for investment grade corporates shares some of the current qualities of the Treasury curve with a pronounced steepness in the belly of the curve and a much flatter slope beyond 10 years. The beauty of these curves is that, even in the unlikely event that Treasuries and credit spreads stay static over the next 5 years we can still generate a positive total return from coupon income and capital appreciation through the roll-down of bonds currently held. Additionally, the steepness afforded by curves currently offers us some protection from rising rates and/or wider credit spreads.

Our proven strategy seeks to provide clients with a transparent separately managed account that provides a return that is good as or better than the Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Corporate Index. We also want to get them there with less volatility through diminished interest rate risk and credit risk along the way. One of the reasons we outperformed the index by 115 basis points during the first quarter was by virtue of our intermediate positioning. Our portfolio ended the quarter with duration of 6.30 while the index had duration of 8.48.

Looking Ahead

Preservation of capital is at the forefront of our strategy so we hate to post a quarter with a negative total return and we know that our investors feel the same way. Thankfully, given the way that bond math works, and especially for investment grade rated credit, such impairments are typically temporary in nature. Take for example a bond that is trading at a discount to par –as time passes and it gets closer to its maturity date, its price gets closer to par, all else being equal. Discount bonds eventually recapture their value as time goes by – it is just a function of the way that the math works. As regular readers know, even in good times after we post a great quarter, we are loath to focus on such short term performance. Investment grade rated corporate credit is at its best when it is treated as a strategic long term allocation that is part of a well-diversified portfolio. In fact, one of the reasons to own this asset class is to aid in that goal of achieving diversification due to its low correlation with other asset classes and its often negative correlation with equities. Bottom line, if an investor is looking for income, diversification and capital preservation as well as a chance to keep up with and/or beat inflation, then investment grade credit is among the ideal asset classes for helping to achieve those goals. After a volatile first quarter we have a guarded optimism and believe there is an attractive opportunity set for our investment philosophy going forward. We thank you for your continued interest and for placing your trust and confidence in us to manage your money.

This information is intended solely to report on investment strategies identified by Cincinnati Asset Management. Opinions and estimates offered constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument. Fixed income securities may be sensitive to prevailing interest rates. When rates rise the value generally declines. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Gross of advisory fee performance does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees. Our advisory fees are disclosed in Form ADV Part 2A. Accounts managed through brokerage firm programs usually will include additional fees. Returns are calculated monthly in U.S. dollars and include reinvestment of dividends and interest. The index is unmanaged and does not take into account fees, expenses, and transaction costs. It is shown for comparative purposes and is based on information generally available to the public from sources believed to be reliable. No representation is made to its accuracy or completeness.

i Federal Reserve Board, June 2006 “The U.S. Treasury Yield Curve: 1961 to the Present”
ii Robert C. Merton, May 1974 “On The Pricing of Corporate Debt: The Risk Structure of Interest Rates

09 Apr 2021

2021 Q1 High Yield Quarterly

In the first quarter of 2021, the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index (“Index”) return was 0.85% while the CAM High Yield Composite gross total return was -0.01%. The S&P 500 stock index return was 6.17% (including dividends reinvested) over the same period. The 10 year US Treasury rate (“10 year”) had a steady upward move as the rate finished at 1.74%, up 0.83% from the beginning of the quarter. During the quarter, the Index option adjusted spread (“OAS”) tightened 50 basis points moving from 360 basis points to 310 basis points. Each quality segment of the High Yield Market participated in the spread tightening as BB rated securities tightened 38 basis points, B rated securities tightened 46 basis points, and CCC rated securities tightened 110 basis points. Take a look at the chart below from Bloomberg to see a visual of the spread moves in the Index over the past five years. The graph illustrates the speed of the spread move in both directions during 2020 and the continuation of lower spreads in 2021.

The Transportation, Energy, and Other Industrial sectors were the best performers during the quarter, posting returns of 4.44%, 3.60%, and 2.08%, respectively. On the other hand, Utilities, Banking, and Insurance were the worst performing sectors, posting returns of -1.75%, -0.43%, and -0.39%, respectively. At the industry level, oil field services, retail REITs, refining, and airlines all posted the best returns. The oil field services industry posted the highest return (13.00%). The lowest performing industries during the quarter were health insurance, railroads, supermarkets, and wirelines. The health insurance industry posted the lowest return (-1.34%).

The energy sector performance has picked up where last year left off and has continued to be quite positive to start 2021. As can be seen in the chart to the left, the price of crude has continued its upward trajectory during the quarter. Recently, OPEC+ members agreed to start increasing oil production. They are making a bet on a continued economic rebound by deciding to add more than 2 million barrels a day as summer approaches. “Even in those sectors that were badly hit such as airline travel, there are signs of meaningful improvement,” said Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman.i

During the first quarter, the high yield primary market posted $162.0 billion in issuance. Many companies continued to take advantage of the open new issue market, and the quarter now holds the top spot for the busiest quarter on record. Issuance within Consumer Discretionary was the strongest with approximately 26% of the total during the quarter. Consumer Discretionary has now had the most issuance for the last four consecutive quarters. Over that time frame, Consumer Discretionary has accounted for approximately 25% of the issuance. Communications has accounted for approximately 13% and good enough for second place.

The Federal Reserve maintained the Target Rate to an upper bound of 0.25% at both the January and March meetings. The chart to the left gives a snapshot of how the Fed’s projections have changed for three economic data points. While broad market consensus is also quite upbeat on the economic outlook, market participants have pushed up the 10-year Treasury yield more than triple off the 0.51% low seen in August 2020. In the face of this, the Fed is content to keep a very accommodative posture. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said in a recent interview, “So, we will — very, very gradually, over time, and with great transparency, when the economy has all but fully recovered — we will be pulling back the support that we provided during emergency times.”ii

Intermediate Treasuries increased 83 basis points over the quarter, as the 10-year Treasury yield was at 0.91% on December 31st, and 1.74% at the end of the first quarter. The 5-year Treasury increased 58 basis points over the quarter, moving from 0.36% on December 31st, to 0.94% at the end of the first quarter. Intermediate term yields more often reflect GDP and expectations for future economic growth and inflation rather than actions taken by the FOMC to adjust the Target Rate. The revised fourth quarter GDP print was 4.3% (quarter over quarter annualized rate). Looking forward, the current consensus view of economists suggests a GDP for 2021 around 5.7% with inflation expectations around 2.4%.iii

Being a more conservative asset manager, Cincinnati Asset Management Inc. does not buy CCC and lower rated securities. This policy generally served our clients well in 2020. However, the lowest rated segment of the market outperformed in the first quarter of 2021. Thus, our higher quality orientation was not optimal during the period. As a result and noted above, our High Yield Composite gross total return did underperform the Index over the first quarter measurement period. With the market staying positive during the first quarter, our cash position remained a drag on overall performance. Additionally, our credit selections within the consumer non-cyclical sector were a drag on performance. Within the energy sector, our higher quality selections were considered a negative to relative performance as the riskiest segment of the sector performed extraordinarily well. Benefiting our performance was our underweight in the utilities sector. Further, our overweight in the transportation sector, and our credit selections within that sector were a positive.

The Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index ended the first quarter with a yield of 4.23%. This yield is up from the new record low of 3.89% reached in mid-February of this year. The market yield is an average that is barbelled by the CCC-rated cohort yielding 6.55% and a BB rated slice yielding 3.40%. Equity volatility, as measured by the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (“VIX”), had an average of 23 over the quarter.

For context, the average was 15 over the course of 2019 and 29 for 2020. The first quarter had 4 bond issuers default on their debt. The trailing twelve month default rate was 4.80% with the energy sector accounting for a large amount of the default volume. Excluding the energy sector from the calculation drops the trailing twelve month default rate to 2.55%.iv The current 4.80% default rate is relative to the 3.35%, 6.19%, 5.80%, 6.17% default rates for the first, second, third, and fourth quarters of 2020, respectively. Pre-Covid, fundamentals of high yield companies had been mostly good and with the strong issuance in each of the last four quarters, companies have been doing all they can to bolster their balance sheets. From a technical view, fund flows did turn negative in February and March, and the year-to-date outflow stands at $4.6 billion.v High yield certainly had some volatility in 2020; however, the market did ultimately provide a positive total return. We are of the belief that for clients that have an investment horizon over a complete market cycle, high yield deserves to be considered as part of the portfolio allocation.

The 2020 High Yield Market was definitely one for the history books. The actions by the Treasury and the Federal Reserve no doubt helped to put in a bottom and provide a backstop for the capital markets to begin functioning amid the Covid pandemic. Generally speaking, the market has recovered. Additionally, the economy is projected to have solid growth over the course of 2021 given the trillions of stimulus that has been put into the system. The vaccine rollout continues and according to the CDC, 32% of the US population has received at least one shot. President Biden recently laid out a $2.25 trillion US infrastructure proposal. Headlines of political wrangling are likely to be front and center this year and perhaps provide some market opportunities. Clearly, it is important that we exercise discipline and selectivity in our credit choices moving forward. We are very much on the lookout for any pitfalls as well as opportunities for our clients. We will continue to carefully monitor the market to evaluate that the given compensation for the perceived level of risk remains appropriate on a security by security basis. It is important to focus on credit research and identify bonds of corporations that can withstand economic headwinds and also enjoy improved credit metrics in a stable to improving economy. As always, we will continue our search for value and adjust positions as we uncover compelling situations. Finally, we are very grateful for the trust placed in our team to manage your capital through such a historic time.

This information is intended solely to report on investment strategies identified by Cincinnati Asset Management. Opinions and estimates offered constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. This material is not intended as an offer or solicitation to buy, hold or sell any financial instrument. Fixed income securities may be sensitive to prevailing interest rates. When rates rise the value generally declines. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Gross of advisory fee performance does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees. Our advisory fees are disclosed in Form ADV Part 2A. Accounts managed through brokerage firm programs usually will include additional fees. Returns are calculated monthly in U.S. dollars and include reinvestment of dividends and interest. The index is unmanaged and does not take into account fees, expenses, and transaction costs. It is shown for comparative purposes and is based on information generally available to the public from sources believed to be reliable. No representation is made to its accuracy or completeness.

i Bloomberg April 1, 2021: OPEC+ to Ease Oil Output Cuts in Cautious Bet on Recovery
ii Bloomberg March 25, 2021: Powell Says Fed Won’t Stop Until US ‘All But Fully Recovered’

iii Bloomberg April 1, 2021: Economic Forecasts (ECFC)
iv JP Morgan April 1,, 2021: “Default Monitor”
v Wells Fargo April 2, 2021: “Credit Flows”

20 Mar 2020

Corporate Bond Market Update

It was a difficult week for the Corporate Bond market as fear and uncertainty related to COVID-19, a precipitous drop in oil, and an inter-meeting rate cut by the U.S. Federal Reserve drove Treasuries lower and spreads wider.

When we look at the Investment Grade market the option adjusted spread on the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Index was 122 at month-end February 2020, while on Friday, March 13, 2020 it closed at 216. This was one of the quickest and most volatile spread moves in the history of the investment grade credit market.

(Source: Bloomberg)

There was a corresponding move lower in Treasuries across the board – this helped to mitigate some, but not all, of the impact of widening spreads.

(Source: Bloomberg)

To provide some context on the performance of the investment grade credit market, through the end of the day on Friday March 13, the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate Index posted a YTD gross total return of -1.88%. Comparatively, the S&P 500 YTD gross total return was -15.73% (Source: Bloomberg). While we are not happy to see negative returns in the corporate bond market, the asset class has performed as expected during a period of extreme volatility, and it has held up materially better than equities and other risk assets.

CAM does not provide intra-monthly performance figures, however as of March 13, 2020 we note that CAM’s portfolio has the following defensive characteristics relative to the Index. CAM is significantly underweight in BBB rated corporate credit relative to the Index. CAM caps its exposure to BBB-rated credit at 30% while the Corporate Index’s exposure was 49.14% as of March 13. Interestingly, the BBB concentration of the Index is down slightly YTD but that is merely because some large issuers, like Kraft-Heinz, were downgraded from BBB to junk status – an example of the type of investment CAM seeks to avoid through its bottom up research process. The second and third major factors that will impact CAM’s performance relative to the Index relate to individual credit selection and avoidance of certain industries which have been particularly hard hit by COVID-19, such as Leisure. To be sure, we have individual credits within our portfolio that have been affected by both COVID-19 and the decline in the oil market and we are constantly monitoring and evaluating those situations through active management of the portfolio.

It was also an exceptionally difficult week for the High Yield market with a one-two punch of fear and uncertainty related to COVID-19 as well as a complete flush of the oil market due to the lack of an OPEC agreement. The option adjusted spread on the Bloomberg Barclays US Corporate High Yield Index spiked above 700 for the first time since the commodity fueled rout of 2016. The Index YTD gross total return was -8.84% through the end of Friday March 13 (Source: Bloomberg).

(Source: Bloomberg)

Again, CAM does not provide intra-monthly performance figures, but our High Yield portfolio has the following defensive characteristics relative to the Index. CAM had over 10% of its portfolio in cash at the start of the current sell-off in February and CAM is underweight, or zero weight, some sectors of the market that were particularly hard hit by this sell off, such as Oil Field services. To be sure, our portfolio’s gross total return was negative as of February 29, 2020, and subsequent drawdown has been widespread. We have a number of credits that have experienced increased volatility and as always we are closely monitoring those situations as well as all the credits in our portfolio. Currently, we are comfortable with the individual credit metrics of our holdings and we believe the overall portfolio is well positioned should the economy enter a recessionary environment. Our cash balance also affords us the ability to be opportunistic on behalf of our clients as those situations arise.

The High Yield market can be extremely volatile in times of stress. It is not as deep or as liquid as the Investment Grade credit market and that is one of the reasons that spreads can gap wider so quickly. The growth of ETFs has exacerbated this problem as they are often forced to sell in the face of investor liquidations. We would caution that during times like these it can be difficult to achieve favorable pricing when looking to sell a high yield security; and depending on your risk tolerance it can often be a good opportunity to buy. We ask that our investors continue to trust that we will professionally manage your portfolios with a long-term objective and through the extent of the current downturn to the best of our ability.

We believe it is important in times like these to remind our investors of our investment philosophy and process at CAM. While volatile markets present challenges as well as opportunities, the way we manage money remains very consistent. We are conservative investors of domestic corporate bonds with a “bottom-up value” investment discipline, stressing first and foremost the preservation of capital, with an important secondary focus on total return. We seek to deliver these results by identifying quality businesses that we are comfortable owning in all markets.

We take the responsibility of managing your money very seriously and we will always do our best to perform that task to the highest standard of care. We sympathize with our clients in uncertain times such as these and we hope that you and your families stay safe and healthy.

This information is intended solely to report on investment strategies identified by Cincinnati Asset Management. Opinions and estimates offered constitute our judgment and are subject to change without notice, as are statements of financial market trends, which are based on current market conditions. Fixed income securities may be sensitive to prevailing interest rates. When rates rise the value generally declines. High Yield bonds present risks specific to below investment grade fixed income securities. Valuation may result in uncertainties and greater volatility, less liquidity, widening credit spreads, and a lack of price transparency. Investments in fixed income securities may be affected by changes in the creditworthiness of the issuer and are subject to nonpayment of principal and interest. The value of fixed income securities also may decline because of real or perceived concerns about the issuer’s ability to make principal and interest payments. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. Gross of advisory fee performance does not reflect the deduction of investment advisory fees. Our advisory fees are disclosed in Form ADV Part 2A. Accounts managed through brokerage firm programs usually will include additional fees. Returns are calculated monthly in U.S. dollars and include reinvestment of dividends and interest. The Index is unmanaged and does not take into account fees, expenses, and transaction costs. It is shown for comparative purposes and is based on information generally available to the public from sources believed to be reliable. No representation is made to its accuracy or completeness.

The information provided in this report should not be considered a recommendation to purchase or sell any particular security. There is no assurance that any securities discussed herein will remain in an account’s portfolio at the time you receive this report or that securities sold have not been repurchased. The securities discussed do not represent an account’s entire portfolio and in the aggregate may represent only a small percentage of an account’s portfolio holdings. It should not be assumed that any of the securities transactions or holdings discussed were or will prove to be profitable, or that the investment decisions we make in the future will be profitable or will equal the investment performance of the securities discussed herein.

16 Mar 2018

High Yield Weekly 03/16/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to a Wells Fargo report, flows week to date were -$0.2 billion and year to date flows stand at -$17.4 billion. New issuance for the week was $8.9 billion and year to date HY is at $49.2 billion, which is -25% over the same period last year.


(Bloomberg) High Yield Market Highlights

  • Junk bonds showed some signs of exhaustion as yields rose for several consecutive sessions, with CCC yields rising to a 12-mo. high; as stocks tumbled and the VIX rose for three consecutive sessions. CCC yields have been rising steadily in 7 of last 10 sessions.
  • Junk investors, though weary and wary, embraced CCC credits and made a beeline for them in the primary market, with two deals for ~$1b pricing
  • NVA Holdings, CCC credit, got orders more than 3x the size of the offering and priced through talk, suggesting risk appetite was robust
  • Guitar Center, CCC-rated and a distressed issuer, was welcomed by investors and priced at the middle of talk
  • CCCs still beat BBs and single-Bs with positive YTD returns of about 0.8%, showing investor appetite for risk was still alive
  • BBs continued to be the worst performer with negative YTD returns of about 1.3%
  • Junk bond market was also stronger qualitatively, with issuers rated B3 and lower declining in numbers; Moody’s notes that issuers rated B3 and lower dropped to 13%, below the long-term average of 15% for the 6th straight month


(International Financing Review) Sprint launches near US$4bn spectrum bond

  • Telecom carrier Sprint raised almost US$4bn from a financing backed by its spectrum, a deal some analysts say will further boost its liquidity and help better prepare for a potentially tough year ahead.
  • The deal launched roughly in line with price talk
  • “Spectrum is its most viable assets, and that’s why it is borrowing against it,” an investor said.
  • The cost of financing for Sprint, rated junk itself, was also cheaper than available in the high-yield market. Sprint’s US$1.5bn junk bond sale last month – the company’s first in three years – came with yields of 7.625% for eight-year debt.
  • “We are encouraged by Sprint’s efforts to diversify its financing sources and use its under-utilized spectrum to secure more attractive pricing,” CreditSights analysts said.
  • They predict a bumpy year ahead for the company, earning that Sprint could burn through cash as it ramps up network capex and focuses on moving customers to leasing plans. That comes as the company faces some significant debt maturities.
  • The analysts note the company has amended its outstanding spectrum-backed note indenture to allow for the issuance of spectrum-backed notes in excess of the US$7bn that will be reached after its latest ABS.
  • “We would not be surprised to see the carrier explore new secured financing alternatives to bolster its cash position,” said CreditSights.


(Fierce Cable) Is SoftBank back on the Charter hunt? Reportedly buys 5% of cable operator’s stock

  • Japan’s SoftBank has laid the groundwork for a $100 billion takeover of Charter Communications by its U.S. mobile operator Sprint Communications, the London Times reported over the weekend.
  • The Times said that led by billionaire Masayoshi Son, SoftBank has quietly purchased 5% of Charter stock in recent weeks.
  • Neither Charter nor Sprint has commented on this report.
  • Last summer, Charter rebuffed a SoftBank merger offer of $540 a share at a time when the cable operator’s stock was trading in the low $400 range. Liberty Media kingpin John Malone, Charter’s biggest shareholder, was reported to be in favor of the deal. Also enthusiastic was the Newhouse family, who became influential Charter shareholders when the cable company bought Bright House Networks.
  • Charter’s management team, led by Chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge, has been resistant of a takeover, while still keen on actualizing the value of fully digested integrations of 2016 acquisitions Bright House and Time Warner Cable.


(PR Newswire) Huntsman Acquires Demilec, a Leading North American Spray Polyurethane Foam Insulation Manufacturer

  • Demilec has annual revenues of approximately $170 million and two manufacturing facilities located in Arlington, Texas and Boisbriand, Quebec where they produce a full suite of MDI based SPF formulations which they market directly to applicators as well as through distributors. Demilec specializes in both closed cell and open cell formulations, with a focus on products with renewable and recyclable content that are eco-friendly, bio-preferred and reduce energy consumption through highly efficient insulation properties.
  • Under terms of the agreement, Huntsman will pay $350 million in an all-cash transaction, funded from available liquidity. Based upon full year 2018 EBITDA estimates, this represents a purchase price multiple of approximately 11.5x or 7.5x, pro forma for synergies. The transaction is expected to close by the end of second quarter 2018.
  • Peter Huntsman, Chairman, President and CEO commented: “This bolt-on acquisition is a great fit to our core strategy to move downstream. The integration of Demilec into our Polyurethanes business offers significant synergies and delivers substantially higher and very stable margins by pulling through large amounts of upstream polymeric MDI into specialized spray foam systems. This integrated business will have greater than 25% EBITDA margins and double digit growth.”
09 Mar 2018

High Yield Weekly 03/09/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to a Wells Fargo report, flows week to date were -$1.8 billion and year to date flows stand at -$17.1 billion. New issuance for the week was $4.9 billion and year to date HY is at $40.2 billion, which is -23% over the same period last year.


(Bloomberg) High Yield Market Highlights

  • Junk bonds, though cautious overall, ignored stumbling stocks as issuance continued its steady pace, with Teva Pharmaceuticals pricing through price talk and increasing the size of the offering.
  • Junk bonds were impervious to wide-spread fears of a possible trade-war as investors saw that as just noise, and that has now become evident in the introduction of new exemptions from the proposed tariff
  • High yield investors shrug off any talk of rise in rates as the 10 year yield has stayed flat or range bound in the last four weeks
  • While junk bond yields dropped a tad in sympathy with steadily declining oil prices, there was no material collapse of the market, as was evident in the new issue market, which added a CCC-rated FTR to the calendar after pricing TEVA
  • CCCs continued to outperform BBs and single-Bs with YTD positive returns of about 0.8%
  • Goldman Sachs, however, cautioned against CCCs and recommended BBs


(Bloomberg) Sinclair Making Progress Toward FCC Nod on Tribune

  • Sinclair’s latest FCC filing shows progress on looming issues in the review of its Tribune acquisition. FCC approval is likely in 2Q, after the Justice Department finishes its work. The FCC will now take public comment on Sinclair’s divestiture plan. Sinclair’s bigger risk likely comes after the deal closes, from litigation over the FCC’s UHF discount.
  • Sinclair’s March 7 update to the FCC indicates that the company is making progress on work needed to get approval of its Tribune M&A. The company now says it seeks to use a recently relaxed FCC rule to own top-four rated stations in only two markets; it abandoned its request for the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, market. To satisfy a national cap, Sinclair will divest stations in Chicago, New York, and San Diego. The fact that Sinclair will still provide service to some of those stations isn’t likely to dissuade FCC Republicans from backing the deal.
  • The FCC’s review of the Sinclair-Tribune deal will likely stretch into 2Q, after Sinclair on March 7 amended its application to address divestitures. The FCC will now probably set a brief period to take public comments on the issue. It will then likely take weeks to reach a decision. Sinclair said it plans to sell stations in nine markets where it would otherwise have two top-four stations. It also said it would like to retain two top-four stations in two markets. Justice Department approval will likely come first.


(Bloomberg) Community Health’s Loan Is Said to Fall After Rating Downgrade

  • Community Health’s outstanding $1.9b term loan H dropped to almost a point, after Moody’s downgraded the hospital operator to Caa1 from B3, according to people familiar with matter.
  • The Company’s outstanding $1.037b term loan G also fell about a point
  • The ratings cut “is driven by material erosion in financial performance over the last six months and a lower earnings and cash flow outlook for 2018″: Moody’s
  • Moody’s now expects adjusted debt/EBITDA to remain above 7.5x over the next 12-18 months
  • First Lien secured ratings also downgraded to B2 from Ba3


(Business Wire) Frontier Communications Announces $1.6 Billion Second Lien Secured Notes Offering

  • Frontier intends to use the proceeds from the offering to finance the cash consideration payable in connection with its previously announced offers to purchase for cash certain of its senior notes maturing in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023 and to pay related fees and expenses.


(CAM Note) Moody’s downgraded Frontier Communications debt one notch to Caa1

09 Mar 2018

Investment Grade Weekly 03/09/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, IG fund flows for the week of March 1-March 7 were a positive $577 million.  This is in contrast to Lipper data, where IG saw its second outflow YTD with an exodus of $740 million from IG funds.  HY outflows continue, and now there have been 8 consecutive weeks of HY outflows for Lipper reporters.  Over $16.6 billion has exited HY over that time period, the largest high-yield outflow streak on record.

The IG new issue calendar saw the most active week of the year, with much of the activity driven by CVS’s $40 billion issuance across 9 tranches.  The $40bn deal was the third largest corporate bond deal on record behind Anheuser-Busch InBev’s 2016 $46bn deal and Verizon’s 2013 $49bn deal.  Appetite was robust for the CVS issuance due to attractive concessions and plenty of portfolio capacity for the issuer –the bonds are currently 10-20 basis points tighter across the curve from where the deal priced.  The strong payroll data has brought a couple of IG issuers into the market as we go to print on Friday morning.  All-in total corporate issuance should end the week at nearly $50bln.  Corporate issuance is down 12% y/y but there are several large M&A related deals waiting in the wings that could narrow this gap substantially in the coming weeks.

The Bloomberg Barclays US IG Corporate Bond Index opened on Friday with an OAS of 100 on par with its YTD wide of 100.  The YTD tight on the index in 2018 was 85, the tightest level since 2007, when spreads bottomed at 82.  The all-time tight was 54 in March of 1997 and the all-time wide was 555 in December 2008.  2017 wide/tight was 122/93.


(Bloomberg) U.S. Added 313,000 Jobs in February; Wage Gains Cool to 2.6%

  • Payrolls rose 313,000 in February, compared with the 205,000 median estimate in a survey of economists, and the two prior months were revised higher by 54,000, Labor Department figures showed Friday. The jobless rate held at 4.1 percent, the fifth straight month at that level. Average hourly earningsincreased 2.6 percent from a year earlier following a downwardly revised 2.8 percent gain.
  • U.S. stock futures and bond yields rose, as the report signaled the labor market remains strong and will keep driving economic growth. The wage figures show a cooling from a pace that spurred financial turbulence last month on concern that the Federal Reserve could raise interest rates faster. While the unemployment rate remains well below Fed estimates of levels sustainable in the long run, the rise in participation suggests the presence of slack that would keep policy makers to a gradual pace of hikes.

(Bloomberg) CVS Builds $120b Book, Pays Palatable Concessions


  • CVS Health Corp. paid about 18 basis points on average to price the $40 billion bond leg of its proposed acquisition of Aetna Inc. in the third largest U.S. dollar corporate debt offering ever. The company is said to have built orders surpassing $120 billion, or 3 times covered, at the guidance phase.
    • New issue concessions ranged from 10-25bps, levels agreeable to the issuer given the size and scope of this deal. Concessions included 25bps on the $9b 10-year and 15bps on the $8b 30-year. Many were looking for this trade to strengthen a credit market that’s softened in recent weeks.
    • Relative valuation is challenging for a trade of this size, given the high visibility and larger credit spread widening.
  • Word that a deal was in the works started circulating around February 21 when the 10-year was trading around +120. Those bonds widened out to +135 by March 1, when the investor meetingswere disseminated to the market suggesting a deal was imminent.
  • So where is the “pure trade” before the transaction is priced into the market? Sticking to a method of using trades prior to announcement gives us T+132 on the 10-year, suggesting that the new issue concession on the 10-year was 25bp.(Bloomberg) Blackstone’s Goodman Says High Yield Faces Needed Disruption


  • “Rising rates is going to create volatility, particularly in the high-yield bond market,” Goodman, the co-head of Blackstone Group LP’s $132 billion GSO Capital Partners credit business, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in New York. “We need that dislocation — that disruption — to find new things to invest in.”
  • Goodman said he expects the average spread on high-yield bonds, currently about 340 basis points over rates on comparable Treasuries, to widen to widen to 700 basis points in the next two to three years. Spreads haven’t been that wide since oil prices reached a bottom in early 2016.
  • Distressed and mezzanine investors like GSO and rival Oaktree Capital Management have been patiently waiting for rates to rise, as a glut of yield-hungry investors have made slim pickings for credit firms. GSO has $25 billion of dry powder — money sitting on the sidelines, waiting for investment opportunities — while Oaktree has $20 billion, according to a recent filing.
  • “As spreads widen you’re going to find lots of investors coming back in to that market,” Goodman said.
02 Mar 2018

High Yield Weekly 03/02/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance:  According to a Wells Fargo report, flows week to date were -$0.5 billion and year to date flows stand at -$15.3 billion.  New issuance for the week was $0.8 billion and year to date HY is at $35.0 billion, which is -12% over the same period last year. 


(Bloomberg)  High Yield Market Highlights

  • Junk bond investors continued to be wary amid tumbling stocks and rising volatility, with the VIX rising for three consecutive sessions and closing at a two-week high yesterday.
  • Stocks saw the biggest decline in three weeks and closed at a two-week low as markets could not get a break to consolidate after digesting the Fed chair Powell’s assessment of the economy, following the new tariff proposal of 25% and 10%, respectively, on aluminum and steel
  • Amid all the hullabaloo over a possible trade war, junk bond yields were resilient


(Modern Healthcare)  20 states sue federal government to abolish Obamacare

  • Twenty states sued the federal government on Monday to end the Affordable Care Act, claiming the repeal of the individual mandate’s tax penalty rendered the law unconstitutional.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ACA in 2012, determining President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform law was a tax penalty. But the tax cuts signed by President Donald Trump in December zeroed out the penalty, and the rest of the ACA can’t stand as law without it, according to the states.
  • Health insurance is regulated by the states, but the ACA required states to create or adopt exchanges where individuals could purchase plans. The law also imposed certain requirements on plans, including covering pre-existing conditions.
  • Since Trump signed the tax cut law, some states have taken action to stabilize their individual markets. In January, Wisconsin’s Republican Governor Scott Walker urged the state legislature to pass a reinsurance program that would help minimize rate increases for residents. Idaho’s GOP Governor Butch Otter has issued an executive order that would allow insurers to sell plans that don’t comply with the ACA, as long as they also have compliant plans for sale in the state.


(Barron’s)  Frontier’s Disappearing Dividend Shouldn’t Have Surprised Anyone

  • Frontier Communicationsannounced it was suspending its dividend following its fourth-quarter earnings report.
  • Frontier said it lost $13.92 a share in the quarter, which included an impairment charge, on revenue that fell to $2.2 billion but beat forecasts for $2.1 billion. Ebitda came in at $919 million, ahead of the Street consensus for $911 million.


(Bloomberg)  AES issues new debt and tenders for existing notes

  • The AES Corporation issued $1.0 billion aggregate principal amount of senior notes. $500 million senior notes due 2021 priced at 4% while $500 million senior notes due 2023 priced at 4.5%. AES intends to use the net proceeds from the offering of the Notes to fund the concurrent tender offer announced to purchase AES’ outstanding 8.00% senior notes due 2020 and 7.375% senior notes due 2021 (together, the “Outstanding Notes”) and to pay certain related fees and expenses. AES intends to use any remaining net proceeds from this offering after completion of the tender offer to retire certain of its outstanding indebtedness. In conjunction with the tender offer, the Company is soliciting consents to the adoption of certain proposed amendments to the indenture governing the Outstanding Notes to alter the notice requirements for optional redemption with respect to each series of Outstanding Notes.


(Bloomberg)  Teva Selling $3.5 Billion of Junk Bonds to Refinance Debt

  • Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd., in its first offering as a high-yield issuer, is selling $3.5 billion of bonds to refinance debt.
  • The drugmaker will have to bear higher interest costs to push out maturities as a massive debt load and weakening sales of a top product have cost it its investment-grade ratings. Teva is selling 1 billion euros ($1.22 billion) and $2.25 billion of debt, it said in a statement. The European offering will include maturities of four and seven years, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
  • In early discussions with investors, the six-year dollar notes have been marketed at a yield of around 6.5 percent, while the bonds due in 10 years are being offered at about 7.25 percent, said a person familiar with the deal, who asked not to be identified as the details are private. Teva’s outstanding 10-year notes due 2026 currently yield about 5.9 percent, according to Trace bond price data.
  • “That’s enough of a concession that people are going to look at it,” said John Yovanovic, a high-yield portfolio manager at PineBridge Investments LLC. “This is going to get a lot of attention.”
23 Feb 2018

High Yield Weekly 02/23/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to a Wells Fargo report, flows week to date were -$0.3 billion and year to date flows stand at -$14.7 billion. New issuance for the week was $4.8 billion and year to date HY is at $34.5 billion, which is -7% over the same period last year.


(Bloomberg) High Yield Market Highlights

  • Junk bond yields were at two-week lows across ratings amid lackluster stocks and a drop in VIX. Oil was steady and well above the $60 mark bolstering junk bonds.
  • However, the recent turbulence in equity volatility amid fears of an accelerated pace in rate hike following strong economic data, took its toll on junk bonds forcing JPMorgan to lower its spread and returns forecast for 2018
  • Spread forecast was revised to +375bps from +390 and returns to 4.60% from 5.5% earlier
  • High yield still offers 5.6% return from here
  • It is still likely to outperform most fixed income asset classes, JPMorgan wrote
  • Recall that the recent turmoil caused the yield to rise to a 14-mo. high and the 10Y treasury yield jumped 30bps by the end of January to 2.70 and 52bps YTD to close at 2.92% yesterday
  • High yield was back to business this week with yields steadily declining and issuance gaining traction
  • While issuance was slow and cautious this month, four more deals for $1.5b priced yesterday, taking the WTD total to $4.85b and MTD to $10.725b
  • Investors seem to return to junk bonds as retail funds report a modest inflow of $160m at close on Tuesday
  • Investor interest in junk bonds was also evident in the primary market with a CCC- credit, Weatherford International, driving by and pricing at talk even amid wobbly stocks
  • Earlier in the week, Sprint had orders of ~$3.75b and increased the size of the offering by $500m to price at the tight end of talk; talk tightened 25bps from the initial whisper of 8% area


(CNBC) Fed minutes: All signs pointing to more rate hikes ahead

  • FOMC members said they have revised upward the economic projections they made at the previous meeting in December.
  • The January meeting was the last one for Chair Janet Yellen, who had guided the Fed through the first rate normalization steps a decade after the financial crisis.
  • Markets already were on edge after the January Fed meeting, during which the committee said it expected that “further gradual adjustments” in monetary policy.


(Forbes) Rite Aid’s PBM Becomes More Attractive Under Albertsons

  • Whether Rite Aid keeps its pharmacy benefit manager or decides to sell it one day, the PBM’s potential value could take off under the umbrella of the large grocery store chain Albertsons.
  • Even before this week’s announcement that Albertsons would buy Rite Aid, the pharmacy chain’s executives were talking up the PBM EnvisionRxOptions as the “growth engine” for the entire company. Those optimistic statements came in early January even as Rite Aid began the process of transferring hundreds of drugstores to Walgreens Boots Alliance, turning the chain into a regional player with only 2,500 or so drugstores.
  • But Rite Aid’s sale to Albertsons will make the drugstore chain and its PBM a national player again . The combination of Albertsons and Rite Aid will create a chain with 4,345 pharmacies in stores spanning across 38 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Processing more prescriptions helps pharmacies as well as PBMs like EnvisionRx. PBMs are the middlemen between drug makers and patients when it comes to buying prescription drugs and getting discounts for their customers. Having a high prescription count helps PBMs gain leverage on behalf of their clients who are employers and government health programs such as Medicare’s part D drug benefit coverage for seniors.
  • In the past two years, Wall Street analysts and other observers of Rite Aid were worried EnvisionRx would lose employer clients and scale amid noise surrounding the uncertainty of its sale to Walgreens. That deal went from an outright sale to a partial deal last September when Walgreens agreed to buy just 1,932 Rite Aids following antitrust scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.
  • Merging with Albertsons gives EnvisionRx a larger platform to do business, executives say.


(Wall Street Journal) Dish Network Gains Sling TV Subscribers but Retention Is a Problem

  • Dish Network said its Sling TV streaming-video service has signed up 2.2 million subscribers in the company’s first disclosure of a figure, but Chairman Charlie Ergen said customer retention is a significant challenge.
  • Dish launched the streaming service nearly three years ago in an attempt to lure younger viewers and people giving up cable TV. The hope was that it would be an avenue for growth as Dish’s traditional satellite TV business declines.
  • The number of Sling TV customers grew 47% compared with the year-ago period, but it wasn’t enough to offset a 9.4% decline in satellite TV subscribers. The company finished the quarter with 13.2 million subscribers overall, including Sling and satellite customers, down from 13.7 million subscribers last year. In the fourth quarter, satellite TV subscribers fell by 121,000.
  • Sling TV added 711,000 subscribers in 2017, below the 878,000 in the previous year. Growth slowed partly because of increased competition with other streaming services.
16 Feb 2018

High Yield Weekly 02/16/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance:  According to a Wells Fargo report, flows week to date were -$7.1 billion and year to date flows stand at -$13.2 billion.  New issuance for the week was $1.7 billion and year to date HY is at $29.7 billion, which is -16% over the same period last year. 


(Bloomberg)  High Yield Market Highlights

  • Junk bond yields dropped the most in three months, and CCC yields saw the biggest drop in more than five weeks yesterday as equity volatility fell for a fifth session yesterday; VIX is down 34% in five days.
  • It was as if high yield investors were making up for the lost week. Junk spreads tightened across ratings
  • Recent turbulence in equity markets across the globe took its toll on junk bonds the past week as nervous and confused investors pulled out cash from junk bond funds
  • Oil prices rebounded from near a seven-week low last week and have crossed the $60 milestone after falling below that
  • Issuance was on pause this week as issuers waited for the volatility to settle down
  • Overall, high yield continued to operate in a supportive environment:
  • The default rate should move lower in 2018 amid a growing economy and improving credit conditions in the commodity sector, Moody’s John Puchalla wrote in note
  • Moody’s Liquidity Stress Indicator was at 2.7% in January, still close to all-time low of 2.5% in December, suggesting junk issuers were backed by steady economic growth and buoyant credit markets Moody’s notes that the U.S. speculative-grade default rate would end the year at 2.2%
  • Corporate earnings have been robust and economic growth was synchronized across the globe
  • Strong global economy and declining default rates augur well for the high yield market



(New York Times)  Trump Tells Lawmakers He’s Mulling Limits on Imported Steel

  • President Trump suggested on Tuesday that the United States was likely to impose restrictions on imported metals, reviving the prospects for a continuing investigation whose future has been called into question amid months of pushback and delays.
  • Despite Mr. Trump’s support for the steel measure, he gave no indication of potential timing, Senator Ron Wyden added. “I didn’t feel that a decision had been made.”
  • Meeting with a bipartisan group of lawmakers, the president said such restrictions would help save struggling steel companies from foreign competitors that “dump” low-priced metal on American markets. “What we’re talking about is tariffs and/or quotas,” Mr. Trump said.
  • The White House had billed the meeting as a listening session to let lawmakers air concerns about pending actions on aluminum and steel imports, as well as  Trump’s infrastructure plan that was proposed on Mondayand current trade measures like the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
  • In April, the president began twin investigations into imports of steel and aluminum under the little used Section 232 of a 1962 trade law, which permits sweeping restrictions to protect national security. Supporters of the action say American metal makers badly need the assistance to survive and continue producing planes, armored vehicles and other products for the military.
  • But the measure also has plenty of critics, who fear that such restrictions amount to a protectionist grab by metal makers and will raise prices for steel and aluminum. They argue that because the metals are widely used to make other products, other industries — including automobile manufacturers and food packagers — would suffer.



(Moody’s)  Lamar’s ratings are unchanged following the upsize of the term loan B

  • Lamar Advertising Company’s ratings are unchanged following the upsize of the proposed senior secured term loan B by its subsidiary, Lamar Media Corporation, to $600 million from $400 million. Leverage is projected to be unchanged at 4.0x following the transaction. The proceeds are expected to be used to refinance its $500 million 5 7/8% senior subordinated note due 2022, pay transaction related expenses, with the remaining proceeds used to partially paydown its outstanding revolver balance. The revolver balance as of Q3 2017 was $90 million, but it was drawn in Q4 2017 to help fund several modest sized transactions.
  • While the upsize does not impact the ratings, a refinancing of the existing $535 million senior subordinated notes due 2023 (callable in May 2018) with additional secured or senior unsecured debt could result in a downgrade of the existing senior secured or senior unsecured debt ratings.

(CAM Note)  S&P did raise the senior unsecured ratings of Lamar to BB from BB- on the back of the refinancing


(Bloomberg)  Continental Resources Raised to Investment Grade by S&P

  • S&P raises corporate credit rating to BBB- from BB+, outlook stable.
  • Sees the company’s production growing at a double-digit rate in 2018 and 2019
  • Expects the company to maintain funds from operations to debt ratio above 30% with neutral free operating cash flow in next 2-3 years
12 Feb 2018

Investment Grade Weekly 02/12/2018

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, IG fund flows for the week of February 1-February 7 were $4.0 billion. While IG flows remain resilient, the front end of the curve has benefitted at the expense of longer duration flows with $3.7 billion this week going to intermediate funds and $1.4 billion going to short duration funds while long duration IG funds suffered a $1.8 billion outflow, mostly driven by one large ETF. IG fund flows are up +0.90% YTD. Per Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance for the week was $17.85bn. The volatile week started with the Bloomberg Barclays US IG Corporate Bond Index trading at an OAS of 85 and the index finished the week with an OAS of 92. The index started 2018 at an OAS of 93.

(Bloomberg) IG Primary Ekes Out Double-Digit Week Despite Market Volatility

  • Despite a volatile week in equities, some high-grade borrowers braved the debt markets this week to price almost $18b of new deals. This follows last week’s resurgence of corporate deals, when more than $20b of new supply flooded the market.
  • Monday saw the largest corporate deal of the year so far via MPLX’s five-tranche deal for $5.5b, while Celgene brought another jumbo bond Thursday to raise $4.5b for its Juno acquisition
  • Marked by wild swings in Treasury yields, equity indices and the VIX, Tuesday only saw Harley-Davidson Financial in the high-grade primary
    • The issuer wound up paying an elevated concession with some investors pointing to the parent’s 4Q earnings miss as a cause for concern
  • Some infrequent issuers moved forward Wednesday and fared better than HOG the day before
    • Orderbooks were about 7.5 times covered, compared to the year-on-year average of 2.5-3 times; dealers were able to compress spreads about 23bps on average
  • On Thursday, borrowers had to navigate falling primary equity indices and a rising volatility index
    • Almost half of the tranches sold that day didn’t price at the tight end of guidance as issuers including Celgene and Senior Housing Properties opted for size over price
  • Despite broader market weakness, high-grade technicals remain strong with Lipper reporting $4.7b of additions into corporate IG funds for the week; IG bonds in three of the most actively traded sectors are trading mixed
    • Issuance Totals
      • Weekly volume: $17.85b
      • February volume: $27.5b

(Bloomberg) High-Grade Bonds Display Resiliency Amid Broader Market Weakness


  • Investment-grade bonds in the three most actively traded sectors – financials, healthcare, and consumer discretionary – are trading mixed as the high-grade market remains largely immune to the broader market shocks.
    • Bank 10y paper is dominating financials, trading 1-4bps wider
    • Recent new issues from Celgene and McKesson are straddling their clearing levels
    • Consumer discretionary bellwethers Amazon, Ford and General Motors are 2-3bps wider; Newell Brand’s spread widening is largely name specific



(Bloomberg) Four of Top-10 Highest IG Volume Days Ever Have Been This Year


  • Just as January saw extraordinary secondary trading volume for IG corporates, February is following suit.
  • Feb. 6 saw $23.9b change hands, that’s the 8th highest volume session back to 2005 when the series began
  • Now, just one of the top-10 has occurred before 2017. November 30, 2016 holds the #2 spot at $25.2b












(TST) Teva Nailed With S&P Downgrade

  • S&P Global Ratings on Thursday, Feb. 8, lowered its ratings on Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd. as the drugmaker continues to face challenges including a competitive generic drug market in the U.S.
  • After the market close, New York-based S&P cut its long-term corporate credit rating on Teva to BB from BBB-. The outlook is stable.
  • Teva’s American depository receipts plunged 10.6% on Thursday after the Petah Tikva, Israel, company reported fourth-quarter results that surpassed analysts’ expectations but issued guidance that came in below estimates. On Friday morning, shares were down another 2.6% to $18.15. Shares are down nearly 44% over the past 12 months and 4.6% in 2018.
  • In its ratings action, S&P also lowered its issue-level rating on Teva’s senior unsecured debt to BB and gave a “3” recovery rating to the debt. The recovery rating “reflects our expectation for meaningful (50%-70%; rounded estimate 50%) recovery in the event of a payment default,” S&P said.
  • Teva had total debt of $34.7 billion as of Feb. 8, according to FactSet Research Systems Inc. The massive debt load was created largely by Teva’s $40.5 billion purchase of Allergan plc’s generic business in 2016.

(Bloomberg) QVC’s Plan to Survive Amazon and Escape the Cable TV Death Spiral


  • Amazon hadn’t just invaded the home turf of the home-shopping channel QVC. As it has done with food delivery, travel and online payments, the Seattle giant had more or less recreated a rival’s entire approach. In this case, the weapon was an online show, “Style Code Live,” staffed with bubbly millennials promoting beauty and fashion products you could buy on Amazon.
  • “They tried to copy everything about our show,” QVC Chief Executive Officer Mike George said in an interview.
  • Usually, this is the moment that foreshadows doom for a rival. But QVC didn’t bend to Jeff Bezos’s iron will. In May 2017, a little more than a year after introducing “Style Code Live,” Amazon canceled the show. The retreat proved that QVC’s formula—unscripted hosts demonstrating products to an audience of mostly women on live television—isn’t as easy as it looks. (Amazon declined to comment.)
  • QVC hasn’t been immune to the ongoing struggles in retail and television. It had four straight quarters of sales declines before posting an increase last quarter. Sales in some categories, such as hair care and jewelry, have continued to struggle. Like many other pay-TV networks, QVC’s main channel has lost subscribers as more consumers drop their cable subscriptions.
  • But QVC isn’t just another channel trying to adapt to the rise of cord-cutting or a retail brand looking for a toehold online. About half of QVC sales already happen online, and two-thirds of those purchases come from mobile devices. In January, after completing a $2.1 billion purchase of its rival, the Home Shopping Network, QVC Group became the third largest e-commerce retailer in North America, according to Internet Retailer. That means the combined cable channels trail only Inc. and Walmart Inc. among companies selling products in multiple categories.

(Bloomberg) Abbott Labs May Blow Through Rater Targets by Cutting Leverage


  • Abbott Labs may achieve leverage metrics well below S&P’s and Moody’s current targets if it cuts debt by $4 billion, as the company plans and achieves profit expectations in 2018. Full access to its $11 billion of cash, plus expectations of about $2 billion of cash flow after dividends will likely provide the sources for balance-sheet repair. Though Abbott has just $500 million of 2018 bond maturities, it does have $3.8 billion in 2019 in two issues, both of which have make-whole provisions.