Data as of February 28, 2019 unless otherwise noted
Performance (total returns)
|Bloomberg Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index (Barclays Agg)||-0.06%||1.00%|
|ICE BofAML U.S. High Yield Master II Index (HY Bonds)||1.69%||6.36%|
|S&P/LSTA Leveraged Loan Index (Senior Secured Loans)||1.59%||4.18%|
Performance data quoted represents past performance and is no guarantee of future results. An investment cannot be made directly in an index.
Leveraged credit rallies in February: The leveraged credit markets continued to rebound in February, with HY Bonds off to their strongest start since 2001. Against the backdrop of rising U.S. equities, benign inflation figures and better-than-expected corporate earnings, HY Bonds returned 1.69% last month and 6.36% year to date.1 HY Bond mutual fund flows continued to reverse course from December’s record outflows, with the asset class pulling in roughly $5.6 billion in February and $10.4 billion through the first two months of 2019.2 Senior Secured Loans returned 1.59% in February, in line with HY Bonds, even as the asset class continued to experience outflows.3 However, the stretch of outflows from bank loan mutual funds began to dissipate toward month-end, with outflows declining to their lowest level in 15 weeks during the last week of February.2 Together, HY Bond and Senior Secured Loan returns easily outperformed the Barclays Agg, which returned -0.06% in February and just 1.0% so far in 2019.4
Outlook improves on more accommodative Fed: Following the heightened volatility experienced during the last part of 2018, HY Bonds and Senior Secured Loans have recovered meaningfully from their December lows. After declining to a 2.5-year low the last week of December, HY Bond and Senior Secured Loan prices ended February at a four-month high and three-month high, respectively. Spreads have also come in, with HY Bond spreads having since tightened to 4.0% from a wide point of 5.4% in December. The rally in leveraged credit has been accompanied by stable corporate fundamentals, solid U.S. economic growth, a benign corporate default environment and a dovish pivot by the Federal Reserve.5 A more accommodative Fed and recent decline in Treasury yields may lead to an improved outlook for HY Bonds and Senior Secured Loans through the remainder of the year.6 J.P. Morgan, for example, recently revised higher its 2019 forecast for HY Bond and Senior Secured Loan returns to 10.5% and 8.0%, respectively.7
- Credit markets continued their fast start to the year, posting solid returns in February.
- The duration-sensitive Barclays Agg declined modestly, underperforming credit indices.