Sections of the fixed income market look promising for investors, despite being “easy to write off”, according to figures from across the industry.
Sebastiano Pirro, CIO of Algebris Investments, argued that “bank credit is well placed to perform favourably amid rising inflation and higher interest rates” as financials have evolved to become more resilient in the face of crisis since the Global Financial Crisis.
Julie Dickson, investment director at Capital Group, agreed, explaining that fixed income was vital in fulfilling key functions, such as “diversification from equities, capital preservation and income”.
She said: “Regardless of whether yields rise of fall, investors still look to fixed income to fulfil these three roles.”
Dickson argued that fixed income assets had fulfilled their purpose during the March 2020 recession, adding: “if investors are looking for resilience, it is important to take a long-term view because even in challenging periods, an allocation to high quality bonds still has the potential to provide diversification from equities, capital protection, income, and can add a stabilising effect to the portfolio over a longer-term time horizon.”
Dickson noted that within her portfolio she targeted capital protection through high-quality government bonds such as US treasuries and Japanese and German government bonds. With this “solid core”, she saw opportunities in higher-yield bonds such as government debt in emerging markets and corporate bonds, meaning the portfolio can “potentially capture higher yield while keeping volatility in check”.
Deep Dive: Divisive and challenging UK equities
Bob Tannahill, portfolio manager at Ravenscroft, took a different approach, arguing that the most interesting corner of the bond market was short-dated credit, specifically “corporate bonds around the lower end of investment grade and the top end of high yield”.
He continued: “This space benefits from reduced sensitivity to interest rates, thanks to the short-dated nature of the bonds (normally between one and three years), while offering the additional yield you get paid for taking on credit risk.”
Algebris’ Pirro also pointed to rising rates, though in favour of bank debt, noting that “rising interest rates mean the outlook appears increasingly favourable”.
“Our analysis shows if rates were to increase by 100bps or more, EU banks could see earnings increase by 24% or higher,” he said. “In an environment in which inflation is expected to persist, many banks are healthy, robust and in a strong position to generate diversified returns.”
Nevertheless, Tannahill highlighted that “the premium in these bonds is close to what you get paid for longer dated bonds from the same issuers”, though the default risk is much lower on these bonds as “you have much better visibility on company finances”.
“To put some numbers on this, one of our preferred funds in this space is Schroder Strategic Credit, run by Peter Harvey.
“At the end of April this fund was offering a yield to maturity of 6.8% and yet had fallen 4.4% over the first four months of the year, materially less than global bonds which were down 10.9%.”
He went on to argue that an active manager was key to success in this space, as they can help “avoid the landmines” of risky bonds. He cited the previously mentioned Schroder fund as well: “It is having this sort of team doing the hard yards of picking the underlying bonds that gives us the confidence to use these funds to help our clients navigate a tricky investment environment”.
Pirro also agreed on this point when discussing bank debt, adding that “it is important to note that the technicals remain challenging with central banks reducing bond buying programmes. As such, we believe the asset class is best accessed through an actively-managed fund run by an experienced manager”.
Is ESG compatible with government bond investing?
Mark Holman, managing partner at TwentyFour Asset Management, said: “What has been particularly painful this year is the normal correlation between rates (government bonds) and credit (corporate bonds) has broken down, with inflation sending government bond yields soaring and growing fears of a recession seeing credit spreads widen.”
“That means credit assets have suffered a double whammy of widening spreads (the risk premium investors demand for holding credit over risk-free government bonds) and the losses inflicted by rising government bond yields themselves.”
“In recent days the negative correlation that typically exists between rates and credit has shown signs of returning, with negative headlines on company earnings prompting a more typical fall in yields for risk-free assets such as US Treasuries.”
Holman added: “Yields in several sectors are not far off crisis levels and are looking rather attractive to us given the fundamentals; defaults are low and projected to remain so in the medium term, upgrades are still outnumbering downgrades, and consumers still look to be in decent shape.
“As JP Morgan’s Jamie Dimon said recently, ‘credit looks really good, we’ve never seen it this good’.”
However, he was eager to urge against complacency, as the economy tackles the receding post-Covid growth buffer.
Nevertheless, he concluded: “We believe yields should be giving bond investors a great degree of comfort at the moment.
“In fact, we would go as far as to say that, in our view, something very nasty indeed would have to happen for any spread widening to overwhelm your starting yield over the next 12 months.”
Most Related Links :
Public News Time Latest News Sports News Finance News Automobile News