Category: Insight

03 Feb 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended February 1st, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $2.657bn. The total year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds ended the week at $12.355bn. Per Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance through Thursday was $45.8bn. For the month of January, new issuance came in at $178.45bn, one of the largest months on record.

(Conference Call, CAM Notes) Simon Property Group Reports Full Year 2016 Earnings

  • Conference Call Highlights:
    • SPG currently has 434 department store spaces in their portfolio
      • 1 current vacancy
    • Also of the recently announced department store closures, 1 was in their portfolio
    • SPG says they saw more stores closings in 2015 than 2016 (non-department)
    • On Traffic:
      • Gift cards sales were up 14% which, SPG believes, is a good indicator of traffic
      • Premium Outlet traffic (counted by cars entering parking lot) was up 1.5% YoY
    • David Simon stated on the call that they believe retailers are spending a lot of capital on internet sales, “and between that and the promotions required to get them to buy online between the cost of shipping and the returns, it’s not a great model for them.”
    • Mall & Premium outlets catering to foreign buyers were negatively affected by the strong dollar during the quarter (same as last)
    • Retail centers outside of tourist oriented malls were stable during the quarter
    • As far as development pipeline:
      • Redevelopment expansion projects are happening at 29 properties for approximately $1.1bn (their share)
      • Five outlets are currently under construction (all open in 2017):
      • Domestic: Norfolk, VA
      • The Clarksville Premium Outlet (D.C.) opened in late October and, “had the strongest open of any premium outlet in a long time.”
      • Internationally: France, South Korea, Malaysia and Canada.
      • One new mall is currently under construction: The Shops of Clearfork (Fort Worth) which is anchored by Niemen is to open in the fall of 2017
      • Brickell City Centre (Miami) opened in the 4th quarter

(Bloomberg) Apple, Microsoft Borrow Now Instead of Waiting for Tax Reform

  • This year, tax reform could give U.S. companies access to hundreds of billions of dollars they have stashed overseas. Many corporations can’t wait that long.
  • Apple Inc. and Microsoft Corp. combined sold $27 billion of debt this week to fund their daily operations, repay maturing debt, and buy back shares. Those bond sales might be unnecessary if new tax laws come this year, because under President Donald Trump’s proposed plan, companies could pay a one-time 10 percent levy to bring back money held overseas, less than a third of the current rate.
  • Whenever companies can bring back cash, corporate bond issuance will likely drop, by as much as $150 billion a year, Bank of America Corp. estimated in November. That’s equal to more than 10 percent of the U.S. investment-grade debt issued last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The companies with the most overseas cash tend to be in the technology and pharmaceutical industries.
  • The U.S. last saw a tax holiday under a 2004 law. As part of that legislation, companies were allowed to bring back foreign earnings for one tax year at essentially a rate of 5.25 percent if they reinvested the funds in programs like worker hiring or capital investments. Although that holiday had a time frame of a single tax year, a program like the House Republicans’ could be implemented almost immediately, and last at least 10 years, Mills said.
  • For now, companies don’t mind heading back to the debt markets, considering the low yields and minimal volatility, said Dave Novosel, a bond analyst at research firm Gimme Credit.
  • “Markets are still pretty good. Why not take advantage of it?,” Novosel said. “A month from now, or two months from now, things might not be as good depending on what happens with Trump and Congress.”
27 Jan 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

 

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were $0.7 billion and year to date flows stand at $1.5 billion. New issuance for the week was $9 billion and year to date HY is at $17.6 billion.

(Globe Newswire) Pinnacle Foods Inc. Launches Proposed Refinancing

  • On the heels of a strong finish to 2016, Pinnacle Foods intends to launch a refinancing of its outstanding indebtedness under its senior secured credit facilities
  • The proposed refinancing is expected to result in interest expense comparable to or slightly below 2016, despite the impact of the rising interest rate environment on the Company’s floating rate debt. It is also expected to improve the Company’s debt maturity profile

(Washington Post) Trump signs executive order on the Affordable Care Act

  • President Trump signed an executive order giving federal agencies broad powers to unwind regulations created under the Affordable Care Act
  • The executive order, signed in the Oval Office as one of the new president’s first actions, directs agencies to grant relief to all constituencies affected by the sprawling 2010 health-care law: consumers, insurers, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, states and others

(Press Release) Northern California County Selects Zayo for School District Connectivity

  • The Office of Education for a northern California county has selected Zayo Group Holdings, Inc. for a dark fiber network that will connect 28 school districts. The 183-mile network includes 173 miles of network in place or already under construction and 10 miles of new build, which will be leveraged for follow-on tenants
  • “Dark fiber is a highly scalable, cost-effective solution that provides the county with dedicated, high-capacity infrastructure,” said Dave Jones, executive vice president of Dark Fiber Solutions at Zayo. “They appreciate the flexibility of a solution they can manage themselves to meet the dynamic, long-terms needs of the county.”

(PR Newswire) Royal Caribbean Reports Over 25% Increase In Earnings And Anticipates Fifth Consecutive Year Of Double Digit Earnings Growth In 2017

  • The company’s booked position for 2017 is better than last year’s record high, and at higher rates. Strength from North American consumers is driving exceptionally positive trends for North American and European products
  • “Our global portfolio of products is demonstrating strength across virtually all key markets, positioning us to deliver strong yield growth in 2017,” said Jason T. Liberty, chief financial officer. “Strong topline growth combined with continued focus on cost management will generate another year of record setting results. Even with significant pressure from FX and fuel, we will deliver another stellar year.”

(Bloomberg) United Rentals to Acquire Competitor NES in $965 Million Deal

  • United Rentals Inc. agreed to buy NES Rentals Holdings II for $965 million to bolster its equipment-leasing operations in regions such as the U.S. East Coast and Midwest
  • Buying NES, which generated sales last year of $369 million, “will augment our revenue, earnings, Ebitda, free cash flow and overall scale,”Michael Kneeland, chief executive officer of United Rentals, said in the statement

(Bloomberg) Spectrum Brands Reports 1Q Results

  • 1Q net sales $1.21b, est. $1.22b (range $1.21b-$1.25b)
  • 1Q gross margin 37.1%, est. 36.6%
  • Sees FY17 free cash flow $575m to $590m, est. $567.6m

(Bloomberg) Verizon Exploring Possible Combination With Charter

  • A combination of Verizon and Charter would follow several recent industry mega-mergers, including Charter’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, which made the Stamford, Connecticut-based company, partly owned by billionaire John Malone, the second-largest cable operator in the U.S. behind Comcast. Verizon, while facing a slowdown in its core wireless business, is the No. 1 mobile carrier and No. 2 telecommunications provider

(Bloomberg) Dialysis Provider Donation Disclosure Rule Blocked

  • A federal rule requiring kidney dialysis providers such as U.S. Renal Care Inc. and DaVita Inc. to disclose their donations to charities that provide premium assistance for dialysis patients can’t be enforced by the HHS
  • Judge Amos L. Mazzant of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas entered a preliminary injunction against the rule Jan. 25, finding the Department of Health and Human Services didn’t follow the proper rulemaking procedure when implementing the rule. The court further said the rule, if implemented, would harm dialysis patients by leaving them with no insurance coverage for their treatment
  • Dialysis providers generally receive more reimbursement for dialysis treatments covered by private insurance, including plans on Affordable Care Act exchanges, than by Medicare or Medicaid plans. Providers said the HHS rule was flawed because it had the effect of allowing private insurers to refuse to cover patients once they learned that the patients received premium assistance from those charitable donations
27 Jan 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended January 25th, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $1.589bn. The total year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds ended the week at $9.697bn. Per Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance through Thursday was ~$25bn. Thus far, $146.8bn of investment grade corporate bonds have been issued in January.

(WSJ) Apple Sues Qualcomm Over Licensing Practices

  • The suit, filed Friday in federal district court in the Southern District of California, claims that Qualcomm leveraged its monopoly position as a manufacturer of baseband chips, a critical component used in cellphones, to seek “onerous, unreasonable and costly” terms for patents, and that Qualcomm blocked Apple’s ability to choose another supplier for chipsets.
  • The complaint seeks $1 billion in rebate payments that Apple says Qualcomm has withheld as retribution for Apple’s participation in an investigation by South Korea’s antitrust regulator.
  • Apple said in a statement that it sued Qualcomm “after years of disagreement over what constitutes a fair and reasonable royalty.”

(Bloomberg) Ford Seen as ‘Canary’ With Record Leases Spurring Used Glut

  • A glut of used vehicles has started to depress prices. That trend will intensify as Americans will return 3.36 million leased cars and trucks this year, another jump after a 33 percent surge in 2016, according to J.D. Power. The fallout has already begun, with Ford Motor Co. shaving $300 million from its financial-services arm’s profit forecast for this year.
  • “Ford is the canary in the coal mine,” said Maryann Keller, a former Wall Street analyst who’s now an auto industry consultant in Stamford, Connecticut.
  • This drag may be hitting the rest of the industry, too. A National Automobile Dealers Association index of used-vehicle prices declined each of the last six months of last year. When auto lenders lease out vehicles, they charge the customer a monthly payment and make an assumption of the car or truck’s value when it will be returned for resale. If vehicles are depreciating more than expected, losses can pile up.
  • “We haven’t seen anything that suggests that what’s happening to our portfolio is different from what’s happening across the industry,” Bob Shanks, Ford’s chief financial officer, told analysts in November.
  • Another way automakers could cope is by expanding their offerings of certified pre-owned vehicles — used cars with extended warranties — to try to bolster prices.
  • The question for auto companies is whether pulling those levers will offset any losses from overlooking the true cost of using hefty incentives and discounted leases to boost new-vehicle sales.

(Bloomberg) Dow Sees DuPont Merger Closing in 1H, CEO Says on Conf. Call

  • Dow Chemical says DuPont merger could be a “2Q close”; confident that company can solve EU antitrust concerns, CEO Andrew Liveris said during conf. call.
  • Says other jurisdictions will “fall in line” after EU
  • Sees Trump using executive orders to lift regulatory burdens
  • Sees DOW benefiting from infrastructure plan, Keystone Pipeline decision
  • DOW is a big U.S. exporter, so Trump border tax “big positive”
  • Sees Trump lifting regulatory burdens in 30-60 days
  • Sees new plant delays maintaining ethylene operating rates
20 Jan 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

 

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were -$0.3 billion and year to date flows stand at $0.8 billion. New issuance for the week was $7.2 billion and year to date HY is at $8.6 billion.

(Food Business News) B&G Foods ready to make another Green Giant-size acquisition

  • B&G doubled its corporate infrastructure with the Green Giant deal and “set ourselves to really continue an acquisition path in a big way,” said Bob Cantwell, chief executive officer and president
  • “We still believe that the right answer for B&G is to get bigger managing smaller things. That really differentiates ourselves against everybody else, but certainly, be ready to buy more things like Green Giant of that size, $500-plus million, because we’re certainly capable of doing that.”
  • “If there’s an acquisition out there that really fits B&G, we’re going to be ready. We’re ready for it today. We’d prefer a little time just to absorb everything we have, but we’re not going to lose out on an acquisition that’s an absolute fit for B&G today.”

(Washington Post) Trump vows ‘insurance for everybody’ in Obamacare replacement plan

  • President-elect Donald Trump said in a weekend interview that he is nearing completion of a plan to replace President Obama’s signature health-care law with the goal of “insurance for everybody,” while also vowing to force drug companies to negotiate directly with the government on prices in Medicare and Medicaid
  • In addition to his replacement plan for the ACA, also known as Obamacare, Trump said he will target pharmaceutical companies over drug prices. “They’re politically protected, but not anymore”
  • “We’re going to have insurance for everybody,” Trump said. “There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.” People covered under the law “can expect to have great health care
  • Trump said his plan for replacing most aspects of Obama’s health-care law is all but finished. Although he was coy about its details — “lower numbers, much lower deductibles” — he said he is ready to unveil it alongside Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “It’s very much formulated down to the final strokes. We haven’t put it in quite yet but we’re going to be doing it soon,” Trump said. He noted that he is waiting for his nominee for secretary of health and human services, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), to be confirmed

(Broadcasting & Cable) Spectrum Auction: TV’s New Exit Price Plummets to $10B

  • That is a huge drop from the previous round and sounds like a number wireless operators might be able to love, or at least meet, so long as the average price in the top markets also meets the second prong for closing the auction successfully. It is a far cry from the $86 billion broadcaster asking price when the auction began, though that was for much more spectrum
  • That $10 billion is how much the government will have to pay—actually it will be wireless companies if/when the auction finally closes for good—to move broadcasters off 84 MHz of spectrum so it can offer it to forward auction bidders for wireless broadband. That is down from the $43 billion broadcasters wanted for 108 MHz in stage 3 of the auction

(Bloomberg) IEA Sees Significant Gains in U.S. Shale Oil as Prices Rise

  • Oil-price gains will trigger a “significant” increase in U.S. shale output as OPEC and other producers rein in supply, according to the head of the International Energy Agency
  • “U.S. shale-oil production will definitely react strongly,” said Executive Director Fatih Birol. “At $50, $55, we’ve already seen a lot of activity,” Birol said. “U.S. oil production will continue to increase in significant terms.”
  • The oil industry is becoming more cost-efficient and a “big chunk” of global output is now profitable at $50 to $55 a barrel, citing Brazil, Mexico and China as countries that will also boost production. There’ll be “lots more” supply in late 2017 or early 2018, he said
  • Oil prices have risen about 20 percent since the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reached a deal to curtail supply last year. The Nov. 30 agreement prompted a surge in activity in the U.S. — not an OPEC member — where oil and gas producers increased drilling the most since April 2014

(Business Wire) Mediacom Communications Makes Iowa First Gigabit State in the Nation

  • Nearly 1 million households in the more than 300 Iowa communities passed by Mediacom’s fiber-rich digital network will be able to enjoy download speeds that are up to 40 times faster than the minimum broadband definition set by the Federal Communications Commission
  • “In addition to enhancing speeds for residential and small business customers today, the Gigasphere platform we have deployed also lays the groundwork for offering multi-Gig services in the future,” said Mediacom’s Chief Technology Officer, JR Walden. “This next generation technology is an excellent complement to the Gigabit+ Fiber SolutionsTM that Mediacom Business has been offering local businesses in our markets for many years.”
20 Jan 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended January 18th, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $1.893bn. The total year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds ended the week at $8.108bn. Per Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance through Thursday was ~$29bn. Thus far, $121.8bn of investment grade corporate bonds have been issued in January, besting consensus estimates of $112bn.

(Press Release) IBM Reports 2016 Fourth-Quarter and Full-Year Results

  • Highlights
    • Diluted EPS from continuing operations: GAAP of $4.73; Operating (non-GAAP) of $5.01
    • Revenue from continuing operations of $21.8 billion
    • Strategic imperatives revenue for full-year 2016 of $32.8 billion up 13 percent (up 14 percent adjusting for currency) represents 41 percent of IBM revenue
    • Cloud revenue of $13.7 billion for full-year 2016, up 35 percent
      • Cloud as-a-service annual exit run rate of $8.6 billion at year end, up 61 percent year to year (up 63 percent adjusting for currency)
    • 2017 EPS Expectations: GAAP of at least $11.95; Operating (non-GAAP) of at least $13.80
  • “In 2016, our strategic imperatives grew to represent more than 40 percent of our total revenue and we have established ourselves as the industry’s leading cognitive solutions and cloud platform company,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM chairman, president and chief executive officer. “IBM Watson is the world’s leading AI platform for business, and emerging solutions such as IBM Blockchain are enabling new levels of trust in transactions of every kind. More and more clients are choosing the IBM Cloud because of its differentiated capabilities, which are helping to transform industries, such as financial services, airlines and retail.”

(NYT) Morgan Stanley Nearly Doubled Profit From Year Earlier Fourth Quarter

  • Morgan Stanley roared in the fourth quarter, but it also exposed the limits of animal spirits. The bank led by James Gorman almost doubled its profit in the period from a year earlier to $1.7 billion. As at rivals, though, return on equity remains subpar.
  • Some banking businesses do not fare well when too much hangs in the balance, as occurred with an OPEC meeting, an Italian constitutional referendum and the American election late last year. Fees from new stock sales, for example, fell 5 percent from the third quarter at Morgan Stanley, 19 percent at JPMorgan Chase and 34 percent at Bank of America.
  • Trading desks ought to have been reaping the benefit from market mood swings. They certainly performed better in last year’s final quarter than during the same span in 2015. Morgan Stanley’s fixed-income, currency and commodities dealers raked in, at $1.5 billion, nearly three times as much revenue.
  • Profitability also remains subdued. With annualized return on equity of 8.7 percent in the fourth quarter, Mr. Gorman is inching toward his 2017 goal of 9 percent to 11 percent. For now, Morgan Stanley keeps failing to cover its cost of capital, generally assumed to be 10 percent for large banks.
  • Business may pick up in time, but that story has been told for years. What could power earnings is largely beyond Wall Street’s control: more and faster interest-rate increases from the Federal Reserve and financial rule changes from Washington.
  • Morgan Stanley is well placed to benefit from both. It is growing its lending business and its mostly domestic wealth-management unit accounts for an increasing share of the company’s profit. With a capital ratio of 16.8 percent, the bank holds more excess than rivals and thus has plenty to return to shareholders if regulators allow.

(Bloomberg) Key Republicans at Tom Price Hearing Still Wary on Health Law Repeal

  • A hearing on President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for health secretary became an arena Wednesday for key Republicans to stress their opposition to overturning the current health law without a clear replacement.
  • The panel was considering the selection of Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.), but much of the session focused on GOP plans for undoing the health law. Sens. Lamar Alexander (R., Tenn.) and Susan Collins (R., Me.) pointedly told Mr. Price their concerns about an initial Republican strategy of repealing the law without an agreed alternative in hand.
  • Mr. Alexander, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, warned that the fragile insurance market in his state means he cannot support anything that would trigger further disruption. He finished on a similar note, telling Mr. Price he was confident he had secured his agreement.
  • “What I heard from you, I believe I’m correct about this, is that while we intend to repair the damage of Obamacare and that will eventually mean repealing parts of it—major parts of it—that won’t become effective until there are practical, concrete alternatives in place to give Americans access to health care,” he said.
  • The GOP-controlled Senate and House have taken their first procedural steps toward repealing the ACA, passing a budget that directs lawmakers to start drafting legislation to dismantle much of the law. But Republicans’ 52-48 Senate majority offers little room for defections as they move ahead.

(Bloomberg Intelligence) Dakota Access Still Has Path to Completion Despite Corps’ Review

  • The Dakota Access Pipeline project may be delayed by a new Army Corps environmental review, but that isn’t likely to stop the project from being completed.
  • The pipeline lost a court bid to block the Army Corps from preparing an environmental impact statement on the lake crossing, opening up the project to a period of public comment and review ending Feb. 20.
  • While publication of the EIS notice somewhat hems in the incoming Trump administration, the new president’s appointees may still withdraw it or reverse course.
  • In the interim, the federal district court in Washington could also agree with Dakota Access that the easement was actually granted in July, negating the EIS process completely.
  • If the EIS process is allowed to go to completion, that process may last as long as six months.
13 Jan 2017

CAM High Yield Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Wells Fargo, flows week to date were $0.3 billion and year to date flows stand at $1.1 billion. New issuance for the week was $1.2 billion and year to date HY is at $1.4 billion.

(Business Wire) Williams and Williams Partners Announce Financial Repositioning for Long-Term, Sustainable Growth

  • Williams and Williams Partners L.P. announced an agreement to permanently waive payment obligations under the incentive distribution rights held by Williams and convert Williams’ economic general partner interest into a non-economic interest for 289 million newly issued Williams Partners common units
  • The estimated transaction value is approximately $11.4 billion. Following the IDR Waiver, Williams will hold approximately 660 million Williams Partners common units, representing approximately 72% of the common units outstanding
  • Williams also announced that it expects to purchase newly issued common units of Williams Partners at a price of $36.08586 per unit. Williams expects to fund the unit purchase with equity. With respect to units issued to Williams in the private placement, Williams Partners will not be required to pay distributions for the quarter ended December 31, 2016 and the prorated portion of the first quarter of 2017 up to closing of the private placement
  • As a result of the measures announced today, Williams expects that Williams Partners will not be required to access the public equity markets for the next several years. In addition, the Transactions result in debt reduction at Williams Partners and a meaningful increase in its cash coverage ratio to approximately 1.2x in 2017 and maintenance of strong coverage in excess of 1.1x thereafter
  • Strengthening Williams Partners’ coverage and credit profile through the Transactions will benefit stakeholders in Williams Partners, including Williams. In addition, maintaining Williams Partners as a strong, separate entity provides on-going strategic and financial flexibility to Williams, enabling it to capitalize on future opportunities to grow both organically and inorganically

(Business Wire) Parsley Energy Buys Permian Properties for $607 Million

  • Parsley Energy Inc. is buying oil and gas properties in America’s hottest shale play for $607 million as it seeks to boost production by almost 60 percent this year
  • The acquisition comprises 23,000 net acres of land adjacent to the company’s existing operations in the Midland and Southern Delaware portions of the Permian Basin
  • The Permian shale formation straddling West Texas and New Mexico has been a hot spot for deals and the center of a revival in U.S. oil drilling as producers have managed to make a profit in the region even during the worst price crash in a generation

Sabine Pass Liquefaction was recently upgraded to BBB- by Fitch. This makes the Sabine bonds rated investment grade by two of the three major rating agencies.

(Bloomberg) Valeant Sells $2.1 Billion in Assets to Ease Debt Burden

  • Valeant Pharmaceuticals agreed to sell about $2.1 billion in assets in two deals, an important first step in the struggling drugmaker’s endeavor to get cash and begin easing its debt burden
  • L’Oreal SA, the Paris-based cosmetic giant, will pay Valeant $1.3 billion for three skin-care brands. Valeant will also sell its Dendreon Pharmaceuticals unit to closely held Chinese conglomerate Sanpower Group Co. for about $820 million. Valeant’s shares and bonds jumped after the news
  • The agreements mark Valeant’s biggest divestitures in almost three years, and a start to its efforts to pay down about $30 billion in debt. It’s a significant break for Chief Executive Officer Joe Papa, who took over in May to help turn around a company that had been embroiled in scandals about high prices and accounting that led to legal and regulatory investigations
  • Proceeds from both sales will be used to permanently repay term-loan debt under Valeant’s senior credit facility, according to the company. The Sanpower transaction is expected to close in the first half of this year, while the sale to L’Oreal should close in the first quarter

(Bloomberg) Sprint Debt Upgraded by Moody’s on Better Performance, Liquidity

  • “Despite the heavy promotional activity, profitability has remained stable due to Sprint’s cost-reduction initiatives,” Moody’s said, adding that annual savings could top $2 billion. The more solid footing “has reduced Sprint’s refinance risk and its dependence upon the often-volatile high-yield bond market,” Moody’s said. Sprint also benefits from implicit support of its parent, SoftBank Group Corp., the report said.
  • Sprint has struggled to improve its finances under Chief Executive OfficerMarcelo Claure. The unprofitable carrier, based in Overland Park, Kansas, has had to borrow money using assets including airwave licenses as collateral to help finance the business. Through promotions such as half-off pricing, it has curbed subscriber defections and turned in its first annual increase in seven years.

(New York Times) Senate Takes Major Step Toward Repealing Health Care Law

  • In a 51 to 48 vote, the Senate took their first major step toward repealing the Affordable Care Act, approving a budget blueprint that would allow the health care law to be gutted without the threat of a filibuster.
13 Jan 2017

CAM Investment Grade Weekly Insights

Fund Flows & Issuance: According to Lipper, for the week ended January 11th, investment grade funds posted a net inflow of $4.029bn. The total year-to-date net inflow into investment grade funds ended the week at $6.215bn. Per Bloomberg, investment grade corporate issuance through Thursday was $38.8bn. Thus far, $92.8bn of investment grade corporate bonds have been issued in January, while consensus estimates call for $112bn for the full first month of the year.

(Bloomberg) Teflon Chemical Cases Face Uncertain Fate If Dow, DuPont Merge

  • Uncertainty cloaks DuPont Co.’s liability for 3,500 toxic tort lawsuits over a Teflon-related chemical as the company proceeds toward a merger with Dow Chemical Co.
  • PFOA has been found in drinking water in West Virginia and Ohio, near the Parkersburg plant. In the first three of those 3,500-plus cases, DuPont lost to residents of that area who claimed DuPont’s PFOA was responsible for their cancer.
  • DuPont’s spinoff, Chemours Co., will defend the PFOA cases although DuPont has been the named defendant.
  • Tom Claps, litigation analyst at Susquehanna Financial Group LLLP, said his company estimates DuPont will be liable for about $550 million for settlement of the current 3,500-plus PFOA cases. Chemours is required to reimburse DuPont for that amount, as the companies agreed in 2015.
  • “However, DuPont must write the initial PFOA checks to plaintiffs in these cases, and will then go after Chemours for reimbursement,” Claps said.
  • According to the Environmental Protection Agency, PFOA was found in blood serum in 99 percent of the U.S. general population between 1999 and 2012, but that percentage has been decreasing as domestic companies phase out production of the chemical.
  • The agency issued a health advisory in 2016 limiting PFOA exposure to 0.07 parts per billion after studies in test animals showed the chemical has adverse health effects, including cancers and impacts on development and the immune system.

(Moody’s, CAM notes) Constellation Brands Raised to Investment Grade by Moody’s

  • The rating upgrade reflects Constellation’s strong brand portfolio and favorable category trends, and its commitment to manage its net debt/EBITDA leverage to around 3.5x compared to a historical targeted range of 3x to 4x.
  • Moody’s expects that Constellation will maintain strong liquidity, characterized by over $1.4 billion in annual operating cash flow and $1.15 billion in revolving credit facilities with substantial borrowing availability.
  • With this Moody’s upgrade, Constellation is now rated investment grade by all three rating agencies.

(Bloomberg) ‘End of Covenants’ Sparks Revolt Over Erosion of Bond Safeguards

  • The first time Adam Cohen’s Covenant Review sounded the alarm in October about a new passage creeping into bond offerings, it described the junk-rated deal from Rackspace Hosting Inc. as “outrageous” and “unprecedented.” Investors bought it anyway.
  • To Cohen, it seemed no one was paying attention to the fine print. So he blasted out a report titled “The End of Covenants,” ultimately fingering 18 deals with the disputed passage.
  • “I had to do something dire,” said Cohen, founder and chief executive officer of his New York-based firm. “By sending out something with the ridiculous title of ‘The End of Covenants,’ people figured out, ‘Wait, something’s going on here.’”
  • Bonds typically come with a lengthy array of standard covenants that protect bondholders by requiring company managers to maintain certain financial ratios, limit asset sales and meet certain deadlines. If they don’t, it can be deemed a voluntary default that entitles bondholders to penalty payments. The “no premium on default” passage casts doubt on those payments, according to Cohen’s firm.
  • Such language may be less jarring to junk-bond owners, who accept more risk and allow corporate managers more leeway in return for higher yields. Mainstream investors weren’t so forgiving.
  • Chatter about the covenants spread through buy-side e-mail chains and chatrooms Monday and Tuesday, with some investors urging others to contact banks to oppose the language.
  • The firestorm that erupted by the middle of this week pushed issuers including Marsh & McLennan, GM and Broadcom Ltd. to drop the idea. The report had struck a nerve with buyers of high-grade bonds, who already have fewer protections and aren’t eager to go down the path that led to five years of eroding protection for junk-bond covenants, as tracked by Moody’s Investors Service.
31 Dec 2016

Q4 2016 Investment Grade Commentary

Corporate Bond investors are compensated for two risks; interest rate risk and credit risk. The first, interest rate risk, is approximated by US Treasury yields. The second, credit risk, is the remuneration for the business risk of the underlying company; this remuneration is expressed as the premium received in excess of the US Treasury yield. In our experience, investors spend a large portion of their time focusing on the risk they can’t control ‐ interest rate risk, and very little time on the risk that can be controlled – credit risk. We as a manager believe that we can provide the most value in terms of assessing credit risk. In our view, the key to earning a positive return over the long‐term is not dependent on the path of interest rates but a function of: (1) time (a horizon of at least 5 years), (2) an upward sloping yield curve ‐ to roll down the yield curve, and (3) avoiding credit events that result in permanent impairment of capital.

The fourth quarter of 2016 saw a substantial increase in Treasury yields as they generally trended higher at the beginning of the quarter and moved sharply higher towards the end of the quarter. The movement higher in Treasury yields did not begin on November 8th (election day in the US) but accelerated at that point before peaking in mid ‐December. Offsetting the higher yields in Treasuries, corporate credit spreads continued their persistent tightening since the mid‐February widest levels of the year and ended near the tightest levels of the year. Specifically, the 10 Year Treasury began the quarter at 1.60%, peaked at 2.60% (up 100 bps) on December 15th and ended the quarter at 2.45% (up 85 bps). The A Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.12% to 1.01% (down 11bps) and the BBB Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.78% to 1.60% (down 18bps). When looking at movement of interest rates and credit spreads together, the sharp rise in Treasury yields was only partially offset by tighter credit spreads, thus yields for Investment Grade corporate bonds ended the quarter higher than where they started. While both US Treasuries and Investment Grade corporate bonds both ended the quarter with higher yields, Investment Grade corporate bonds outperformed by a considerable margin.

During the quarter, Investment Grade corporate bonds provided some protection to investors as US Treasury yields rose. The Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate Index returned ‐2.83% vs ‐4.47% for the Barclays US Treasury 5‐10 year index i. When looking at the performance of US Investment Grade corporate bonds the two primary factors that led to their outperforming comparable US Treasuries during the quarter were:

 

  • higher starting yields
  • tightening of credit spreads across the corporate credit curve

Our Investment Grade Corporate Bond composite provided a gross total return of ‐3.62%, which trailed the Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate Index, but outperformed the comparable US Treasury index. For the quarter, our underperformance relative to the US Investment Grade corporate benchmark can be primarily attributed to our focus on the 5 – 10 year part of the credit curve, the much shorter end of the curve was less impacted by increasing rates, and our underweight to the BBB credit quality segment relative to the benchmark.

For 2016 our Investment Grade Corporate Bond composite provided a gross total return of +4.03% vs the Barclays Investment Grade Corporate Index total return of +6.11%. Our limiting of bonds rated BBB to 30% of a portfolio vs approximately 53% for the benchmarkii, was a primary factor for the full year underperformance. The dispersion of performance in the benchmark across credit quality is highlighted below:

Since our portfolios tend to hold fewer BBB rated bonds and more A & AA rated bonds, one can see how this influenced our performance relative to the benchmark. This contrasts with our 2015 outperformance of the benchmark (+1.01% vs ‐0.68%) which can be partially attributed for the exact opposite reason of widening credit spreads and our long time policy of limiting BBB rated bonds.

As the year ended, we saw a continuation of many of the same themes we have written about in our previous commentaries. The continual tightening of credit spreads, which has provided better relative returns than US Treasuries, continued unabated since mid‐February. New corporate bond issuance set a new record in 2016 with nearly $1.3 Trillion of new Investment Grade issuance providing the supply to meet robust investor demand iii. Companies have been very eager and aggressive to issue bonds to lock in coupon rates near all‐ time historic lows (chart above).

As we enter 2017 a great deal of concern and speculation has centered on the future direction of interest rates due to potential new policy actions by a new administration in Washington DC. We as a firm do not utilize interest rate anticipation or forecasting in our investment process thus, we do not have an official firm view on the direction of rates. We do understand the concern investors have with the uncertainty of the direction of interest rates, but it is a risk we have no control over. What we do have control over is the composition of a portfolio as it relates to the credit quality it exhibits and assessing the risks associated with each company’s capacity to pay its future interest payments and ultimately return of principal to investors. As an investment manager solely focused on assessing this credit risk, this is where believe we have the ability to add value to a fixed income portfolio where an allocation to US corporate credit has been made. It is important to note that credit spreads are at levels that are tighter than their 30 year average. There is risk of potential corporate bond volatility due to these credit spreads mean reverting, which is something investors should be aware of as we move forward. If this credit spread widening were to unfold, we believe a portfolio with a corporate bond manager like CAM that underweights the riskiest credit quality of Investment Grade bonds and focuses on understanding the credit risks of the companies it owns, should help alleviate some of the potential volatility relative to other Investment Grade fixed income sectors. It is important to note that higher Treasury yields have historically provided a buffer to adverse interest rate movements ‐‐with absolute yields at the lower end of long‐term ranges, small rate changes can have a larger impact on bond values as there is less cushion to absorb adverse outcomes.

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 Barclays Indices: Global Family of Indices December 2016

ii Bloomberg Barclays Indices: Global Family of Indices December 2016

iii http://www.sifma.org/research/statistics.aspx

30 Oct 2016

Q3 2016 Investment Grade Commentary

Corporate Bond investors are compensated for two risks; interest rate risk and credit risk. The first, interest rate risk, is approximated by US Treasury yields. The second, credit risk, is the remuneration for the business risk of the underlying company; this remuneration is expressed as the premium received in excess of the US Treasury yield. In our experience, investors spend a large portion of their time focusing on the risk they can’t control – interest rate risk, and very little time on the risk that can be controlled – credit risk. We as a manager believe that we can provide the most value in terms of assessing credit risk. In our view, the key to earning a positive return over the long-term is not dependent on the path of interest rates but a function of: (1) time (a horizon of at least 5 years), (2) an upward sloping yield curve – to roll down the yield curve, and (3) avoiding credit events that result in permanent impairment of capital.

The third quarter of 2016 saw a small increase in Treasury yields as they generally trended higher throughout the quarter. Offsetting the higher yields in Treasuries, credit spreads continued their persistent tightening since the mid-February widest levels of the year and ended near the tightest levels of the year. Specifically, the 10 Year Treasury began the quarter at 1.47% and ended at 1.60% (up 13 bps), the A Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.24% to 1.12% (down 12bps), and the BBB Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 2.05% to 1.78% (down 27bps). These two factors together have added up to stable or slightly lower yields for Investment Grade corporate bonds.

From a performance perspective, this relatively benign move higher in interest rates was more than offset by the tightening in credit spreads. This allowed our portfolios to collect coupon and benefit from the tightening of credit spreads. Our Investment Grade Corporate Bond composite provided a gross total return 0.99% as compared to the 1.41% move higher for the Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate Index. Since the source of excess returns this quarter was primarily due to credit spread tightening, we need to analyze how the credit quality of our strategy influenced the performance of our portfolios relative to the benchmark. The Barclays US Investment Grade Corporate Index is comprised of approximately 53% BBB rated bondsi while our strategy caps our exposure to BBB rated bonds at 30%. This cap causes our portfolios to have a higher average credit quality relative to the benchmark and this underweight to BBB bonds was the primary reason we lagged the index in performance for the quarter.

As the third quarter progressed, there were several prevailing trends in the corporate bond market that continued:

  • tightening credit spreads provided buoyant returns
  • investor interest in the asset class provided new capital to be put to work
  • new corporate bond issuance has been robust providing the supply for investor demand

 

Since we just discussed the impact of tightening credit spreads on the performance of our strategy and the Barclays Index, we will examine the other noted trends and how they may influence future returns in the asset class. There is no denying the insatiable desire of investors to search globally for an attractive, and positive, yield on their investments. Whether it is insurance companies from Europe, pension funds from Japan or individual investors from the US, the search for yield has never been stronger than we see today. Foreign-based institutional investors, which represent approximately 40% of the buyers in the marketplace todayii, have been forced to look at the US fixed income markets for positive yielding investments as negative yielding bonds dominate their local markets. It is not known how long this influx of foreign capital will continue to support the US corporate bond markets, but it may continue for a period of time. Monitoring the state of yields in their local markets may provide some insights as to when this flow of funds subsides. Since the Federal Reserve Bank made it their policy to suppress interest rates to, amongst other reasons, force investors to take more risks via the “portfolio balance channel theory”iii, individual investors have been forced to buy securities with higher risks than they may have desired to obtain yields they once received on “low” to “no-risk” investments. Investment Grade corporate bonds, which carry both duration and credit risk, have been a primary beneficiary of this shift in investor risk preferences and the buying by individual investors continues to this day. While the Fed maintains a low interest rate policy, it is not a stretch to believe these individual buyers will remain significant buyers of corporate bonds, especially retirees who are in the desperate need of interest income to meet living expenses.

These robust sources of demand have allowed companies to supply this demand and issue a great deal of debt in the US Investment Grade markets at very low coupon rates. The issuance for 2016 has already surpassed $1.07 trillion, which is the 5th consecutive year that issuance has surpassed $1.0 trillion iv. This issuance has more than doubled the size of the US Investment Grade corporate bond market since 2008 as figure 1 below highlights.

While these trends remain firmly in place for the time being, we remain cautious with respect to any complacency regarding the concept of a “new normal” as it pertains to the pricing of corporate credit. The dynamics of tightening credit spreads that are diverging from underlying credit metrics, such as elevated leverage ratios v, should not be assumed as a “given” that will continue in perpetuity. One of two things has to happen to alleviate strains in these metrics, either growth of corporate debt has to slow down or company fundamentals (revenues and earnings) have to improve to bring down these ratios.

As an investment manager solely focused on assessing credit risk of the individual companies we own, we monitor these risks on an ongoing basis for all of our clients’ portfolio holdings.
In this environment, where strong demand has tightened credit spreads fairly indiscriminately, credit quality and issuer selection becomes more important than usual – because when this indiscriminate demand abates, US corporate bonds will be valued based more on the merits of the company’s ability to pay its interest and principal and less on the insatiable global demand for yield.

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 Barclays Indices: Global Family of Indices September 2016
ii Wells Fargo Securities: Corporate Credit Outlook Q4 2016
iii Jackson Hole speech by then Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke August 31, 2012; http://www.federalreserve.gov/newsevents/speech/bernanke20120831a.htm
iv http://www.sifma.org/research/statistics.aspx
v Morgan Stanley Research, Bloomberg http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-09/leverage- soars-to-new-heights-as-corporate-bond-deluge-rolls-on

30 Jul 2016

Q2 2016 Investment Grade Commentary

Corporate Bond investors are compensated for two risks; interest rate risk and credit risk. The first, interest rate risk, is approximated by US Treasury yields. The second, credit risk, is the remuneration for the business risk of the underlying company; this remuneration is expressed as the premium received in excess of the US Treasury yield. In our experience, investors spend a large portion of their time focusing on the risk they can’t control ‐ interest rate risk, and very little time on the risk that can be controlled – credit risk. We as a manager believe that we can provide the most value in terms of assessing credit risk. In our view, the key to earning a positive return over the long‐term is not dependent on the path of interest rates but a function of: (1) time (a horizon of at least 5 years), (2) an upward sloping yield curve ‐ to roll down the yield curve, and (3) avoiding credit events that result in permanent impairment of capital.

The second quarter of 2016 initially saw an increase in Treasury yields; however, by late April, yields began to plummet to the lows of the year. Credit spreads began the quarter with a continuation of their persistent tightening since the mid‐February widest levels of the year, but they ended the quarter only slightly tighter across the credit curve as spreads began to soften a bit. Specifically, the 10 Year Treasury began the quarter at 1.77% and ended at 1.47% (1.91% on 4/25/16), the A Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 1.26% to 1.24% (1.13% on 4/26/16), and the BBB Rated Corporate credit spread tightened from 2.19% to 2.05% (1.96% on 5/2/16). As of today, July 26, the 10‐Year Treasury is trading at 1.57%, and spreads are at 1.12% and 1.86%, respectively. Interest rates this month (July) have hit an all‐time low for the 10 Year Treasury and credit spreads are at the tightest levels of the year.

There are a number of “forces” at work in the robust performance of the investment grade corporate bond market. Global interest rates have fallen to the extent that approximately 60% of sovereign debt ($13 trillion) is trading at negative yields. So US Treasury 10‐year Notes trading at 1.56% represent a significant premium to what is available in many parts of the globe. In addition, the European Central Bank commenced a QE program that involves the monthly purchase of $89 billion of euro‐denominated corporate debt. This has encouraged US Corporations to issue debt outside the US (negatively impacting potential supply in the US) and has also encouraged European investors to buy US securities (increasing demand). So these forces, along with our own Fed “easy money” policies have led to the performance results experienced in the first half of 2016. We should also point out that investment grade corporate bonds continue to offer good relative value when compared to other investment grade fixed income categories. Over reasonable investment cycles (2‐4) years, corporate bonds outperform other taxable fixed income categories (Credit Suisse and Lipper Data). So not only do they represent good relative value at this time, but they do so with expected greater total return than their investment grade fixed income counterparts as well. Moreover, corporate bonds have shown lower volatility than non‐fixed income categories. Their longer term volatility (measured by standard deviation) is approximately 30% of that of the S&P 500 (Credit Suisse Strategy Monthly, December 2015). So corporate bonds can provide a stabilizing force in a total portfolio that includes equity exposure.

With strong performance and happy (hopefully) investors, this might be a good time to consider what could alter the landscape and produce a more challenging return environment. We will do this in a general way, as all portfolios will react differently to different circumstances. One scenario we can look at is by using the duration calculationi of our Investment Grade composite, which was 6.8 at the end of Q2 2016, and apply different rate outcomes to approximate the potential, temporary impact on the market price of portfolios. For example, if the US 10 Year Treasury, which was at 1.47% on 6/30/16, were to go back to the level it started the year at 2.27%, the 0.80% increase in yield would have an impact of an approximate decline of 5.44%ii on the value of the overall portfolio, assuming corporate

yields were to increase by the same amount (spreads remained constant). While this price decline is a temporary impairment of the portfolio, as bonds discounted to par do recover lost value as they approach maturity, it would be volatility felt by corporate bond investors that may not be anticipated nor expected…but should be. A move wider in credit spreads for A rated corporate bonds, which were 0.49% wider in mid‐February than they are today, would have an impact of an approximate decline of 3.33%iii on the value of the portfolio. In the unlikely, but possible, scenario of both US Treasury yields increasing to the highs of the year and credit spreads widening to mid‐February levels at the same time, the impact would be an approximate decline of 8.77%iv. While we are not projecting nor predicting either of these events to occur in insolation or together, we are simply trying to illustrate potential portfolio volatility based on the current portfolio duration and various movements of interest rates and credit spreads in the markets. No matter what type of portfolio volatility there may be, any decline would always be offset by the cash flow generated by the bonds.

As we described in the introduction to this commentary, the level of interest rates and credit spreads are risks that we as portfolio managers are unable to control. What we are able to control is the assessment of credit risk in our portfolios and ensure we own securities that do not permanently impair our clients. While there are very few instances of corporate bonds defaulting while they are rated investment grade, there is the risk of being downgraded from investment grade to non‐investment grade or high yield. Quite often during this downgrade process, investors are forced to sell these “Fallen Angels” as they are prohibited from holding non‐investment grade debt in their respective accounts and strategies. This forced selling can create an impairment for investors who choose to follow their lead and exit these positions at the same time. While Cincinnati Asset Management is not mandated to be a forced seller in this situation for our Investment Grade strategy, it is a situation we try to avoid as to not experience unwanted volatility in the portfolio. We believe utilizing a corporate bond manager with an extensive history of credit research such as Cincinnati Asset Management can help investors navigate that potential mine field of potential deteriorating credits and ensure investors hold securities with a stable or an improving credit profile.

As the second half of the year gets underway, we remind investors that overall yields are starting from an extremely low level. With cash flow being a primary driver of returns, this level of yields should tell investors future return expectations may be lower than returns from the recent past. Additionally, the yield curve as measured by the 2 Year to 10 Year Treasury yield differential is below its 20 year average, thus removing some benefit we have had the past several years of rolling down a steep yield curve. As is written on most investment materials: Past performance should not be taken as an indication of future results…it would be wise to manage future return expectations for Investment Grade corporate bonds appropriately.

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.

i Duration is an approximate measure of the sensitivity of the price (the value of principal) of a fixed‐income investment to a change in interest rates.

ii This figure is calculated by multiplying the duration by the move in interest rates (6.8 x 0.80 = 5.44%) iii This figure is calculated by multiplying the duration by the move in spreads (6.8 x 0.49 = 3.33%)
iv This figure is calculated by adding the two above figures together (5.44% + 3.33% = 8.77%)