A most unusual cycle — the shrinking of the high yield market

31/10/2017

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There are many aspects of this credit and business cycle, which continue to surprise investors and differ from the textbook expectations of an aging bull market. Jenna Barnard explores one aspect unique to the high yield market, which can explain the relentless demand for bonds.


Along with many asset classes, so-called ‘junk’ bonds are experiencing a year of unparalleled tranquillity. Indeed, the Bank of America US High Yield Index is trading in the tightest spread range of the past 20 years with a high to low range in spreads of only 71 basis points (bp) year to date, while the range has been 118bp for European high yield. This compares to an average of 481bp for the US index over the last 10 years, since the start of the Global Financial Crisis.

While the reasons for the low volatility environment across asset classes are well rehearsed, we wanted to explore one aspect, which is unique to the high yield market and can help explain a relentless demand for bonds. Quite simply, the US high yield market is beginning to shrink. In doing so it is following in the footsteps of the European high yield market where the par value (notional amount) of bonds outstanding peaked in 2014 and has been notably lower ever since (chart 1).

Chart 1: shrinking high yield markets



Source: BofA Merrill Lynch Global Research, BofA Merrill Lynch Bond Indices, Janus Henderson Investors, as at 30 October 2017.


Driving forces
Explaining the shrinkage in the market is relatively simple; it is due to a number of forces, which are explored below. Before doing so however, it is worth taking a step back to reflect on the fact that eight years into a bull market, with close to record low yield levels, corporates appear to lack the exuberant animal spirits that in the past would have encouraged a leveraging up of balance sheets.

It would appear that the scars of the previous crisis continue to run deep. We have spoken in previous articles and videos about the experience of Japan and the lasting impact of a ‘balance sheet recession’ on both corporate and household attitudes to debt. It is also the case that a low growth and low inflation backdrop makes it hard for companies to envisage ‘growing into’ a highly indebted capital structure. Europe led the way in this regard but it is fascinating to see similar footprints in the US.

Changing corporate behaviour
Facing an economic environment with stagnant growth, European corporates have remained relatively conservative in their behaviour. We have commented in the past on the low levels of European merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in this business cycle relative to previous cycles, and the US.

This is particularly noteworthy given how cheaply European corporates can borrow in public bond markets. The European investment grade market currently yields 0.75% and the European high yield market yields 2.12%. The lure of cheap debt seems to exert little force on the European corporate psyche. This has not been the case in the US where investment grade companies have taken full advantage of lower bond yields in this cycle in order to return cash to equity investors.

The US high yield market, however, currently seems to have more in common with Europe, driven by a cautious attitude among private equity sponsors. This is very different to the gung ho attitude exhibited during the 2005-07 private equity boom.

Resurgence of rising stars
While the number of credit rating downgrades has exceeded the number of upgrades in the high yield universe, the volume of debt being upgraded to investment grade has far outweighed that being downgraded to the high yield index.

Typically, it is companies with the bigger capital structures (which make up a larger part of high yield indices) that are engaged in improving their credit profile. Not only does this give them access to cheaper and more plentiful funding (should they need it) in the investment grade market, if and when this cycle eventually turns, they will also be in a relatively better position to weather the storm.

The result is — across both US and Europe — a smaller high yield market, as more bonds are upgraded to investment grade.

The upgrade of Anglo American alone earlier this year, resulted in the loss of $9.6bn (par value) of bonds in the US high yield index. Tesco, which makes up 5.7% of the smaller sterling high yield index, has announced it is focusing on a return to investment grade and is buying back debt with that view in mind. In the case of the European high yield market, Barclays estimates €20bn of debt (par value) will migrate from high yield to investment grade in 2018 with only approximately €5bn going in the opposite direction.

A newfound affinity with loans
In addition to corporates’ changing business strategies, the high yield bond market has faced cannibalisation from its sister asset class — leveraged loans.

Indeed, possibly the biggest trend in the past two to three years for the high yield market has been the resurgence of loan issuance driven by the continued strong demand for collateralised loan obligations (CLOs) and a sense of protection offered by floating rate notes in a ‘rising rate environment’ (or not, as the case may be).

Borrowers have tended to prefer leveraged loan structures, which typically come with far fewer covenants, allowing more operational flexibility for the issuing firm; over 75% of loans outstanding are classified as ‘cov-lite’. In addition to this, the issuers retain the ability to repay or refinance the terms of these loans at very short notice. A large part of loan activity, particularly this year, has been companies refinancing outstanding loans at lower margins.

There is a lot of overlap in the companies that issue high yield bonds and issue debt (loans), and it is no coincidence that the rapid increase in leveraged loans has coincided with a period of decline for high yield debt. Since the end of 2014, the US high yield market has shrunk by 3.7% while the loan market has grown by 12.7%.

In aggregate, the combined size of the US loan and high yield bond markets has been broadly stable since 2014 (chart 2). Again, this is very different to the wave of mega leveraged buyouts (LBOs), which expanded the high yield and loan markets in the 2005-07 period.

Chart 2: combined size of US high yield and loan markets
 


Source: BofA Merrill Lynch, Janus Henderson Investors, as at 30 September 2017

Where do we go from here?
There are many aspects of this credit and business cycle, which continue to surprise investors and differ from the textbook expectations of an aging bull market. Our guidepost for much of the divergence in behaviour between European and US corporations continues to be the experience of Japan in recent decades; erasing the memory of a debt trauma takes more than low interest rates.

In contrast, areas where we have observed a willingness to binge on debt in this business cycle are: emerging market corporates, US investment grade companies and the household sector in Australia and Canada. Each such debt boom presents different investment opportunities and risks to an unconstrained bond fund.

Divergence remains the dominant theme for bond investors.


Note: Yields and spreads quoted are correct at the time of writing in late October. Yields may vary and are not guaranteed.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested.

The information in this article does not qualify as an investment recommendation.

For promotional purposes.


Important information

Please read the following important information regarding funds related to this article.

Janus Henderson Fixed Interest Monthly Income Fund

This document is intended solely for the use of professionals and is not for general public distribution.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions and reliefs depend upon an investor’s particular circumstances and may change if those circumstances or the law change.

If you invest through a third party provider you are advised to consult them directly as charges, performance and terms and conditions may differ materially.

Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice. This document is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment. It does not form part of any contract for the sale or purchase of any investment.

Any investment application will be made solely on the basis of the information contained in the Prospectus (including all relevant covering documents), which will contain investment restrictions. This document is intended as a summary only and potential investors must read the prospectus, and where relevant, the key investor information document before investing. Copies of the Fund’s prospectus and key investor information document are available in English, French, German, and Italian. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from Janus Henderson Investors registered office: 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE.

Issued in the UK by Janus Henderson Investors. Janus Henderson Investors is the name under which Henderson Global Investors Limited (reg. no. 906355), AlphaGen Capital Limited (reg. no. 962757), Henderson Equity Partners Limited (reg. no.2606646), (each incorporated and registered in England and Wales with registered office at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide investment products and services. We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Copies of the Fund’s prospectus are available in English, French, Spanish German and Dutch. Key investor information documents are available in English, Danish, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from the local offices of Janus Henderson Investors: 201 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3AE for UK, Swedish and Scandinavian investors; Via Dante 14, 20121 Milan, Italy, for Italian investors and Roemer Visscherstraat 43-45, 1054 EW Amsterdam, the Netherlands. for Dutch investors; and the Fund’s: Austrian Paying Agent Raiffeisen Bank International AG, Am Stadtpark 9, A-1030 Vienna; French Paying Agent BNP Paribas Securities Services, 3, rue d’Antin, F-75002 Paris; German Information Agent Marcard, Stein & Co, Ballindamm 36, 20095 Hamburg; Belgian Financial Service Provider CACEIS Belgium S.A., Avenue du Port 86 C b320, B-1000 Brussels; Spanish Representative Allfunds Bank S.A. Estafeta, 6 Complejo Plaza de la Fuente, La Moraleja, Alcobendas 28109 Madrid; Singapore Representative Henderson Global Investors (Singapore) Limited, 138 Market Street #34-03/04 CapitaGreen, Singapore 048946; or Swiss Representative BNP Paribas Securities Services, Paris, succursale de Zurich, Selnaustrasse 16, 8002 Zurich who are also the Swiss Paying Agent.

Specific risks

  • Investment management techniques that have worked well in normal market conditions could prove ineffective or detrimental at other times.
  • Some or all of the annual management charge is taken from capital. This may constrain potential for capital growth.
  • This fund is designed to be used only as one component in several in a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested into this fund.
  • The Fund could lose money if a counterparty with which it trades becomes unwilling or unable to meet its obligations to the Fund.
  • The value of a bond or money market instrument may fall if the financial health of the issuer weakens, or the market believes it may weaken. This risk is greater the lower the credit quality of the bond.
  • Derivatives use exposes the Fund to risks different from, and potentially greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and may therefore result in additional loss, which could be significantly greater than the cost of the derivative.
  • Changes in currency exchange rates may cause the value of your investment and any income from it to rise or fall.
  • If the Fund or a specific share class of the Fund seeks to reduce risks (such as exchange rate movements), the measures designed to do so may be ineffective, unavailable or detrimental.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Leverage arises from entering into contracts or derivatives whose terms have the effect of magnifying an outcome, meaning profits and losses from investment can be greater.
  • Any security could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, increasing the risk of investment losses.

Risk rating

Janus Henderson Preference & Bond Fund

This document is intended solely for the use of professionals and is not for general public distribution.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions and reliefs depend upon an investor’s particular circumstances and may change if those circumstances or the law change.

If you invest through a third party provider you are advised to consult them directly as charges, performance and terms and conditions may differ materially.

Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice. This document is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment. It does not form part of any contract for the sale or purchase of any investment.

Any investment application will be made solely on the basis of the information contained in the Prospectus (including all relevant covering documents), which will contain investment restrictions. This document is intended as a summary only and potential investors must read the prospectus, and where relevant, the key investor information document before investing. Copies of the Fund’s prospectus and key investor information document are available in English, French, German, and Italian. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from Janus Henderson Investors registered office: 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE.

Issued in the UK by Janus Henderson Investors. Janus Henderson Investors is the name under which Henderson Global Investors Limited (reg. no. 906355), AlphaGen Capital Limited (reg. no. 962757), Henderson Equity Partners Limited (reg. no.2606646), (each incorporated and registered in England and Wales with registered office at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide investment products and services. We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Copies of the Fund’s prospectus are available in English, French, Spanish German and Dutch. Key investor information documents are available in English, Danish, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from the local offices of Janus Henderson Investors: 201 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3AE for UK, Swedish and Scandinavian investors; Via Dante 14, 20121 Milan, Italy, for Italian investors and Roemer Visscherstraat 43-45, 1054 EW Amsterdam, the Netherlands. for Dutch investors; and the Fund’s: Austrian Paying Agent Raiffeisen Bank International AG, Am Stadtpark 9, A-1030 Vienna; French Paying Agent BNP Paribas Securities Services, 3, rue d’Antin, F-75002 Paris; German Information Agent Marcard, Stein & Co, Ballindamm 36, 20095 Hamburg; Belgian Financial Service Provider CACEIS Belgium S.A., Avenue du Port 86 C b320, B-1000 Brussels; Spanish Representative Allfunds Bank S.A. Estafeta, 6 Complejo Plaza de la Fuente, La Moraleja, Alcobendas 28109 Madrid; Singapore Representative Henderson Global Investors (Singapore) Limited, 138 Market Street #34-03/04 CapitaGreen, Singapore 048946; or Swiss Representative BNP Paribas Securities Services, Paris, succursale de Zurich, Selnaustrasse 16, 8002 Zurich who are also the Swiss Paying Agent.

Specific risks

  • Investment management techniques that have worked well in normal market conditions could prove ineffective or detrimental at other times.
  • Some or all of the annual management charge is taken from capital. This may constrain potential for capital growth.
  • This fund is designed to be used only as one component in several in a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested into this fund.
  • The Fund could lose money if a counterparty with which it trades becomes unwilling or unable to meet its obligations to the Fund.
  • The value of a bond or money market instrument may fall if the financial health of the issuer weakens, or the market believes it may weaken. This risk is greater the lower the credit quality of the bond.
  • Derivatives use exposes the Fund to risks different from, and potentially greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and may therefore result in additional loss, which could be significantly greater than the cost of the derivative.
  • Changes in currency exchange rates may cause the value of your investment and any income from it to rise or fall.
  • If the Fund or a specific share class of the Fund seeks to reduce risks (such as exchange rate movements), the measures designed to do so may be ineffective, unavailable or detrimental.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Leverage arises from entering into contracts or derivatives whose terms have the effect of magnifying an outcome, meaning profits and losses from investment can be greater.
  • Any security could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, increasing the risk of investment losses.

Risk rating

Janus Henderson Strategic Bond Fund

This document is intended solely for the use of professionals and is not for general public distribution.

Past performance is not a guide to future performance. The value of an investment and the income from it can fall as well as rise and you may not get back the amount originally invested. Tax assumptions and reliefs depend upon an investor’s particular circumstances and may change if those circumstances or the law change.

If you invest through a third party provider you are advised to consult them directly as charges, performance and terms and conditions may differ materially.

Nothing in this document is intended to or should be construed as advice. This document is not a recommendation to sell or purchase any investment. It does not form part of any contract for the sale or purchase of any investment.

Any investment application will be made solely on the basis of the information contained in the Prospectus (including all relevant covering documents), which will contain investment restrictions. This document is intended as a summary only and potential investors must read the prospectus, and where relevant, the key investor information document before investing. Copies of the Fund’s prospectus and key investor information document are available in English, French, German, and Italian. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from Janus Henderson Investors registered office: 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE.

Issued in the UK by Janus Henderson Investors. Janus Henderson Investors is the name under which Henderson Global Investors Limited (reg. no. 906355), AlphaGen Capital Limited (reg. no. 962757), Henderson Equity Partners Limited (reg. no.2606646), (each incorporated and registered in England and Wales with registered office at 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AE) are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to provide investment products and services. We may record telephone calls for our mutual protection, to improve customer service and for regulatory record keeping purposes.

Copies of the Fund’s prospectus are available in English, French, Spanish German and Dutch. Key investor information documents are available in English, Danish, German, Finnish, French, Italian, Norwegian, Spanish, Swedish and Dutch. Articles of incorporation, annual and semi-annual reports are available in English. All of these documents can be obtained free of cost from the local offices of Janus Henderson Investors: 201 Bishopsgate, London, EC2M 3AE for UK, Swedish and Scandinavian investors; Via Dante 14, 20121 Milan, Italy, for Italian investors and Roemer Visscherstraat 43-45, 1054 EW Amsterdam, the Netherlands. for Dutch investors; and the Fund’s: Austrian Paying Agent Raiffeisen Bank International AG, Am Stadtpark 9, A-1030 Vienna; French Paying Agent BNP Paribas Securities Services, 3, rue d’Antin, F-75002 Paris; German Information Agent Marcard, Stein & Co, Ballindamm 36, 20095 Hamburg; Belgian Financial Service Provider CACEIS Belgium S.A., Avenue du Port 86 C b320, B-1000 Brussels; Spanish Representative Allfunds Bank S.A. Estafeta, 6 Complejo Plaza de la Fuente, La Moraleja, Alcobendas 28109 Madrid; Singapore Representative Henderson Global Investors (Singapore) Limited, 138 Market Street #34-03/04 CapitaGreen, Singapore 048946; or Swiss Representative BNP Paribas Securities Services, Paris, succursale de Zurich, Selnaustrasse 16, 8002 Zurich who are also the Swiss Paying Agent.

Specific risks

  • Investment management techniques that have worked well in normal market conditions could prove ineffective or detrimental at other times.
  • Some or all of the annual management charge is taken from capital. This may constrain potential for capital growth.
  • This fund is designed to be used only as one component in several in a diversified investment portfolio. Investors should consider carefully the proportion of their portfolio invested into this fund.
  • The Fund could lose money if a counterparty with which it trades becomes unwilling or unable to meet its obligations to the Fund.
  • The value of a bond or money market instrument may fall if the financial health of the issuer weakens, or the market believes it may weaken. This risk is greater the lower the credit quality of the bond.
  • Derivatives use exposes the Fund to risks different from, and potentially greater than, the risks associated with investing directly in securities and may therefore result in additional loss, which could be significantly greater than the cost of the derivative.
  • If the Fund or a specific share class of the Fund seeks to reduce risks (such as exchange rate movements), the measures designed to do so may be ineffective, unavailable or detrimental.
  • When interest rates rise (or fall), the prices of different securities will be affected differently. In particular, bond values generally fall when interest rates rise. This risk is generally greater the longer the maturity of a bond investment.
  • Leverage arises from entering into contracts or derivatives whose terms have the effect of magnifying an outcome, meaning profits and losses from investment can be greater.
  • Any security could become hard to value or to sell at a desired time and price, increasing the risk of investment losses.

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Important message

Fund name changes

Please note that from the 15 December 2017 funds previously named Janus or Henderson have been renamed Janus Henderson. This change aligns our product names with our name, Janus Henderson Investors, following the merger of Janus Capital and Henderson Global Investors in May 2017.

This name change does not impact on the management of the underlying funds and investors and advisers are not required to take any action. This does not affect Janus Henderson’s range of investment trusts.