Tag Archives: Credit Risk

Leveraged Loans Blow Out. Distressed Corporate Debt Spikes, by Wolf Richter

James Grant once said something to the effect that reaching for yield is more dangerous than reaching for razor blades in the dark. He was right, as the last few weeks have amply demonstrated. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

This is the moment when yield-chasing turns into a massacre.

Leveraged loans – they’re issued by junk-rated overleveraged companies with insufficient cash flows – are part of the gigantic pile of risky corporate debt that is now being brutally repriced as concerns over credit risk (the risk of default) are finally bubbling to the surface. Since February 22, the S&P/LSTA US Leveraged Loan 100 Index, which tracks the prices of the largest leveraged loans, has plunged 20%:

The index is another example of how in these crazy times, when the most splendid Everything Bubble collided with the coronavirus, ever more financial metrics are violating the WOLF STREET beer mug dictumthat “Nothing Goes to Heck in a Straight Line.”

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Risk has been Abolished, According to Institutional Investors, by Wolf Richter

Just about all measures of investor complacency are flashing bright red. From Wolf Richter at wolfstreet.com:

Why? Wall Street sells “more financial products and generates more profits when investors are bullish.”

“Covenant-lite” loans – risky instruments issued by junk-rated borrowers, with few protections for creditors – set an all-time record at the end of the second quarter.

They’re part of the risky universe of “leveraged loans,” and they’re secured by some collateral, but they don’t come with the protections and restrictive maintenance requirements in their covenants that traditional leveraged loans offer creditors.

Even leveraged loans with more restrictive covenants are so risky that banks just arrange them and then try to off-load them to institutional investors, such as pension funds or loan funds. Or they slice and dice them and package them into Collateralized Loan Obligations (CLOs) and sell them to institutional investors. Leveraged loans trade like securities. But the SEC, which regulates securities, considers them loans and doesn’t regulate them. No one regulates them.

The amounts are not trivial. Total outstanding leveraged loans in the US reached nearly $1 trillion ($943 billion) at the end of the second quarter, according to S&P Capital IQ LCD. And covenant lite loans made up 72.5% of them, the highest proportion ever.

That’s up from 69% at the end of the fourth quarter. This chart shows the surge in the proportion of covenant-lite loans to total leveraged loans over the past three years, from about 55% at the end of Q2 in 2014 to 72.5% at the end of Q2 2017:

So what’s the big deal? When there is no default, there is no difference. And since there is apparently no longer any risk of default, it’s, well, no big deal. That’s what investors are thinking.

To continue reading: Risk has been Abolished, According to Institutional Investors

Credit is Blowing Out, by Tyler Durden

Credit spreads are widening, the junkier the credit the greater the widening, and default fears stalk the bond market. You’d think there was a debt deflation going on or something. Two from Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:

EM Credit Risk Blows Out Dramatically Amid FX Bloodbath, Fed Fears, Political Risk

In the wake of the global commodities rout which recently saw prices touch their lowest levels of the 21st century, there’s been no shortage of commentary (here or otherwise) on the pain that’s been inflicted on commodity currencies and by extension, on EM.

As it stands, the world’s emerging economies face a kind of perfect storm triggered by a combination of the following factors: falling commodity prices, depressed Chinese demand, and the threat of an imminent Fed hike. All of this has contributed to capital outflows, which has in turn led some reserve managers to begin liquidating their store of USD-denominated assets to help offset the bleeding and indeed, it now looks as though Brazil will eventually be forced to capitulate and dip into the reserve cookie jar to help arrest the BRL’s terrifying slide.

All of this is of course complicated by idiosyncratic political risks.

Take Malaysia for instance, where the 1MDB scandal threatens the political career of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Or Brazil, where President Dilma Rousseff’s abysmal approval rating and a fractious Congress have made implementing desperately needed austerity measures virtually impossible.

And there is of course Turkey, where Recep Tayyip Erdo?an has effectively plunged his country into civil war in order to preserve AKP’s dominance and pave the way for constitutional amendments that will allow him to consolidate his power.

The risks facing EM are in fact so acute and closely watched that the threat of accelerating capital outflows effectively forced the Fed to delay liftoff earlier this month.

To continue reading: EM Credit Risk Blows Out Dramatically

BofA Issues Dramatic Junk Bond Meltdown Warning: This “Train Wreck Is Accelerating”

On Tuesday, Carl Icahn reiterated his feelings about the interplay between low interest rates, HY credit, and ETFs. The self-feeding dynamic that Icahn described earlier this year and outlined again today in a new video entitled “Danger Ahead” is something we’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time delineating over the last nine or so months. Icahn sums it up with this image:

The idea of course is that low rates have i) sent investors on a never-ending hunt for yield, and ii) encouraged corporate management teams to take advantage of the market’s insatiable appetite for new issuance on the way to plowing the proceeds from debt sales into EPS-inflating buybacks. The proliferation of ETFs has effectively supercharged this by channeling more and more retail money into corners of the bond market where it might normally have never gone.

Of course this all comes at the expense of corporate balance sheets and because wide open capital markets have helped otherwise insolvent companies (such as US drillers) remain in business where they might normally have failed, what you have is a legion of heavily indebted HY zombie companies, lumbering around on the back of cheap credit, easy money, and naive equity investors who snap up secondaries.

To Continue Reading: B of A Issues Dramatic Junk Bond Meltdown Warning