Data as of December 31, 2018 unless otherwise noted
Performance (total returns)
|Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (Barclays Agg)||1.84%||0.01%|
|ICE BofAML U.S. High Yield Master II Index (HY Bonds)||-2.19%||-2.26%|
|S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index (Senior Secured Loans)||-2.54%||0.44%|
Performance data quoted represents past performance and is no guarantee of future results. An investment cannot be made directly in an index.
Leveraged credit declines amid December volatility: U.S. equity and commodity price volatility negatively impacted the leveraged credit markets in December, with HY Bonds posting their largest quarterly decline in three years. Against the backdrop of heightened market volatility stemming from global growth and trade-related concerns, HY Bonds returned -2.19% last month, the worst monthly return since November 2015, capping the asset class’s first annual decline since 2015.1 Investors withdrew approximately $6.8 billion from high yield bond mutual funds in December even as corporate fundamentals remained stable and corporate default rates remained near historic low levels.2,3 Senior Secured Loans returned -2.54% in December, the worst monthly return since August 2011, as bank loan mutual funds registered their first quarterly outflow in a year after posting the largest-ever weekly outflow in the last week of December.2,4 Nevertheless, Senior Secured Loan returns remained positive for 2018, outperforming both HY Bonds and higher-duration fixed income investments. For perspective, the Barclays Agg returned 1.84% in December but only 0.01% for all of 2018 due, in part, to the index’s higher sensitivity to interest rates.5
Treasury yields decline on global growth concerns: HY Bonds and Senior Secured Loans experienced their third straight monthly decline as heightened risk aversion and extreme U.S. equity price swings weighed on most global asset classes. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note declined to below 2.7% at month-end as a mix of trade-related and global growth concerns had investors seeking safety in Treasuries.6 The shift in sentiment was reflected by HY Bond and Senior Secured Loan prices, which declined to 2.5-year lows in the last week of December.1,4 Notably, both HY Bond spreads and Senior Secured Loan spreads are now wider than their average since 2011. For context, over the past 30 years, HY Bond spreads have begun a month at 5.0% or higher 55% of the time and have returned, on average, 11.2% over the following 12 months.7 At the same time, corporate default rates remain near historic lows, with high yield bond and senior secured loan default rates ending December at 1.81% and 1.63%, respectively.8
- Amid broad market volatility and record outflows, HY Bonds and Senior Secured Loans fell in December.
- 10-year Treasury rates fell as investors sought safety in government bonds.