Eq: Large Cap
How to protect against the next recession? This is a difficult question. Since it may be rate induced, it will be hard to hide out in Treasuries, and gold has not inspired much confidence. Well, SkyBridge Capital thinks the big money maker is to short high yields. “Our largest short position right now is in high yield, and it’s not because we think we’re going to make money this year or next year … It’s to protect against the eventual recession or [a] surprise recession”, says a portfolio manager there. “If you’re looking to put on [a] relative cheap short position, it’s hard to figure out how you lose money given how tight spreads are”.
FINSUM: High yield has seen a big expansion of credit and a decline in quality, and when the next recession rolls around there are going to be some big losses.
It might not always feel like it, but rising rates are good if you are an income investor. Rates are most definitely rising. Treasury yields are up strongly and the Fed is hiking quarterly. That can cause some rate driven losses even as yields on fixed income assets rise. One fund manager summarized the risks and benefits this way, saying “Rising rates and/or lower equity valuations should lead to higher long-term expected returns, although the movement from low yields to high yields, or high valuations to low valuations, often requires a painful short-term capital loss”.
FINSUM: The move to “low valuations” sounds terrifying as an investor, but the key is to take advantage of higher yields while holding hedged positions.
As analysts and the market try to sort out how the new division in Congress will play out in markets, one beneficiary is becoming increasingly clear. Aerospace analyst Ron Epstein of Merrill Lynch had this to say the day before last week’s election, “The change to Democratic control of the House is the best scenario for defense spending. It points to upside in the defense budget. Gridlock keeps budgets intact, and defense is a bipartisan issue”. That argument is a bedrock of the new view that defense stocks are likely going to surge in the new Congressional environment. Epstein points out that aerospace companies are simultaneously seeing commercial and defense businesses growing strongly.
FINSUM: Earnings seem like they will stay in very good shape for the defense sector, and because budget changes look unlikely, the whole industry seems to be in for smooth sailing.
One of the best indicators of stock market performance is actually in bonds. Because they trade based on fundamentals, high yield bonds tend to be strong leading indicators of stock performance. With markets swinging all over the place, now might be a good time to see what junk bonds are doing. The answer is that the sector looks to be in good shape, with spreads holding steady and no real sign of concern.
FINSUM: Junk is probably not going to really worry until we get very near, or into an inverted yield curve, as a recession would be rough on the high yield market.
Something very ominous has been occurring in junk bond markets over the last week. The lowest tier of junk credits—which had been outperforming the market for much of this year—have been getting hammered. There has been a crash in CCC credits. According to Bank of America, since early October CCCs “have lost 3.25% in total and 3.50% in excess returns … effectively wiping out five months of performance”. That contrasts with the highest quality credits in the junk universe, which appreciated.
FINSUM: CCC had been doing quite well, so one can see this either as a normal return to earth, or early signs of trouble.
One of the most underappreciated areas of the bond market is in mortgage-backed securities. Anyone familiar with the Financial Crisis will instantly know why. However, the asset class itself offers many attractive advantages compared to other bonds. There are three main points of appeal: higher yields, liquidity, and low correlation to risk assets. MBS ETFs average 2.79% yields (much higher than Treasuries), have much greater liquidity than corporate bonds, and have the lowest correlation to risk assets of any fixed income instrument.
FINSUM: If you can get of the trauma that the acronym caused, MBS can be a very good asset class for many different market environments.