This article is not for the faint of heart. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:
“Distress” in Bonds Spirals into Financial Crisis Conditions
The pile of toxic corporate bonds in the US, euphemistically called “distressed” debt, ballooned 15% in the single month of February to $327.8 billion, up 265% from a year ago, according to S&P Capital IQ. The number of S&P rated US companies with distressed debt rose 9% in February to 353, up 128% from a year ago.
The last time the pile of distressed debt had soared to this level was in November 2008, and the last time the number of distressed issuers had shot up to these levels was in October 2008; Lehman had declared bankruptcy in September.
These “distressed” junk bonds sport yields that are at least 10 percentage points above US Treasury yields, according to S&P Capital IQ’s Distressed Debt Monitor. Put into a chart, the fiasco in terms of dollars (in billions, black line) and number of distressed issuers (purple columns) looks like this:
And so Standard & Poor’s US Distress Ratio for junk bonds soared to 33.9 in February, from 29.6 in January, having increased relentlessly for nine months straight, nearly tripling from a year ago!
The ratio hit the highest level since July 2009, when it was coming down from the Financial Crisis. But this is the spine-chilling part: Back in September 2008, before the Lehman bankruptcy had fully registered in the ratio, but when the Financial Crisis was already gaining a good amount of momentum, and when stocks were crashing left and right and prudent people were wearing hardhats while out on the sidewalk, the distress ratio was “only” 28.9:
The distress ratio measures the extent to which risk is being priced into the bonds. A rising ratio is “typically a precursor to more defaults,” the report explains.
And it’s not just the oil-and-gas and the minerals-and-mining sectors that are getting crushed. Of the 607 distressed bond issues in the ratio, 172, or 28%, are oil-and-gas related and 80 bond issues, or 13%, are minerals-and-mining related. The remaining 59% are spread across other the spectrum.
To continue reading: Now It’s Even Worse Than it Was When Lehman Collapsed, But It’s “Contained”