Eq: Large Cap
Junk bonds have been on a tear lately. July was the best month for the asset class in nearly nine years, with overall returns near 5%. The average junk bond yield fell from 6.85% to 5.46% over the course of the month on the back on continued monetary and fiscal stimulus. The market has risen so much that many are questioning if they have already missed the opportunity. To this question, one high yield fund manager says “I don’t think so . . . Governments across the world want to make sure credit is working properly”.
FINSUM: As long as sovereign yields stay super low and the Fed and government keep the life lines open, it is easy to imagine yields will keep falling for junk.
The market is split over dividend stocks. On the one hand, about half the market thinks the huge wave of dividend cuts are over and that most of the damage has been done. One the other, many worry that not all the deleterious effects of COVID have manifested themselves on corporate behavior and that further cuts may still be in the works. The overall picture seems to be one where caution is due given the big jump in valuations and the continued possibility of further cuts. For instance, bank and credit card companies look likely to cut further as high unemployment leads to worsening credit quality and more delinquency. Wells Fargo just announced a dividend cut, for instance.
FINSUM: Our thinking here is to be careful. Even if the economy does not have another lockdown, the full effects of this recession may take a little time to fully show themselves in dividend cuts.
While some are saying that we are in “TINA” mode with equities (i.e. there is no alternative), high yield bonds have been seeing a big influx of demand. Because dividends are drying up in the stock market, high yield bonds are becoming increasingly attractive, and Bank of America thinks they are going to do well. They point out that yields in some bonds are much higher than similar yields on equities in the same sector and they expect spreads to tighten in the coming quarter. “While the easy money was last quarter, we still see many tailwinds to nudge high-yield spreads tighter in Q3...Markets should be treated to plenty of positive data surprises now that economies are exiting their lockdown hibernation…an essential ingredient for leveraged credit to perform.”
FINSUM: This seems like a reasonable call, but we think the positive data surprises might be a stretch. That said, yield-hungry investors will likely keep the high-yield space humming along.
Covered calls are an old investing methodology, but one that does not get much attention. That said, employing covered calls can be a great income strategy. So what is a covered call? Simply put, it is the process of selling call options while simultaneously holding the underlying shares. The idea is to earn income from selling the call options, while hedging risk by holding the underlying shares. The ideal outcome is that the underlying share price rises but does not hit its strike price, yielding the seller both the income from selling the option and the capital appreciation of the shares.
FINSUM: In markets with big momentum this is not a great strategy, but in back and forth ones like those at present, it can be very effective for increasing income. There are a number of funds that also employ this strategy so you don’t have to do it manually.
Big debt investors are pouring dollars into risky debt markets and products, such as CLOs and their subprime-backed assets. Why you may ask? (as anyone might right now) The answer is that the riskiest borrowers are surviving this downturn much better than anyone expected. Spreads between subprime-backed products and US Treasuries have narrowed sharply, while new deals have seen big demand. According to an analyst at Loomis Sayles “What is surprising is how strong credit performance has been … Fiscal policy is really keeping the subprime borrower afloat”.
FINSUM: Regardless of whether or not you are involved in this market, it is good news that the demand for these securities is actually being driven by fundamentals. It is both a sign of economic resilience, and also of market rationality.
There has been a major change in the stock market’s attitude toward the president over the last several weeks. For a long time, the market was very concerned with Trump winning. If Trump looked weak in polls, it was bad for markets. According to RBC, for the last 12 months, the S&P 500 has moved mostly in line with Trump’s odds for reelection. According to the bank, ““For the past year, expectations as to whether Trump will win again in November (as tracked by the betting markets) have been moving in sync with S&P 500 performance … But that relationship has broken down a bit in early June, with Trump’s chances (according to the betting markets) falling and the S&P 500 surging”.
FINSUM: Markets care much more about the economy than they do Trump, and everyone seems to be betting that COVID stimulus will keep going even if Trump loses.