Data as of February 28, 2018, unless otherwise noted
Performance (total returns)
|Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index||-0.95%||-2.10%|
|ICE BofAML U.S. High Yield Index||-0.93%||-0.30%|
|S&P LSTA Leveraged Loan Index||0.20%||1.16%|
Performance data quoted represents past performance and is no guarantee of future results. An investment cannot be made directly in an index.
Corporate credit benchmarks were mixed in February, with senior secured loans posting a modest gain while high yield bonds and the broader fixed-rate bond market posted modest to moderate declines. Against the backdrop of rising U.S. government bond yields and a volatile month for U.S. equities, floating rate and other low-duration investments benefited alongside renewed investor attention to rising interest rates.
High yield bonds slip: High yield bonds returned -0.93% in February, the largest decline in 26 months, erasing all the gains of January.1 Amid emerging interest rate concerns and a spike in equity volatility, high yield bond mutual funds recorded an outflow of approximately $10.4 billion in February after posting their second-largest weekly outflow ever during the week ended February 14.2 Alongside increased volatility in U.S. 10-year Treasury yields, high yield bond prices declined $1.55 and high yield bond yields widened by approximately 43 bps to 6.16% as of February 28.1,3,4 For perspective, high yield bond yields were sitting at a 2017 low of 5.37% in October. Against the backdrop of a sell-off in U.S. Treasuries, the higher-yielding areas of the bond market held up slightly better than their lower-yielding peers. In February, BB rated bonds generated a total return of -1.16%.5 By comparison, B rated and CCC rated bonds provided total returns of -0.77% and -0.59%, respectively, in February.6,7
Senior secured loans benefit from rate rises: While last month’s decline in high yield bond prices weighed slightly on the senior secured loan market, the asset class recorded a modest gain of 0.20% in February and remains one of the few fixed income investments providing a positive return in 2018.8 Benefiting from their floating rate coupon and position as a potential hedge against rising interest rates, senior secured loan prices have continued to appreciate since the outset of 2018 even as bond prices declined.8 For context, senior secured loan prices are up $0.48 since December 31, 2017, as increased interest rate concerns raised the appeal of the asset class, versus a $1.23 decline in high yield bond prices and a $3.34 decline in investment grade corporate bond prices.1,8,9 Year to date, senior secured loans are now providing returns of 1.16% after returning 4.12% in 2017.8 By comparison, high yield bonds, U.S. 10-year Treasuries and the broader fixed-rate bond market are providing a year-to-date return of -0.30%, -3.65% and -2.09%, respectively.1,10,11
Benefiting from their floating rate coupon and position as a potential hedge against rising interest rates, senior secured loans remained relatively steady in the face of rising U.S. Treasury yields and increased equity volatility. Investments with lower durations, such as senior secured loans, have outperformed so far in 2018 and may display lower levels of volatility if U.S. Treasury yields rise further.