Credit is a funny asset class. It is part risk-on, part risk-off, and sentiment in and around the sector reflects its Jekyl and Hyde nature. This past week was a case in point. We’ve had dovish comments recently out of both Yellen and Draghi, both suggesting that current economic activity allowed for plenty of flexibility on monetary policy. The prospect of continued or even further stimulus gave risk assets a bit of a boost, and credit spreads did well for a few days. Not coincidentally, it was the same period in which equities did well.
Then the market saw a couple of days of bad news – mixed signals from the economy, and weak earnings out of Wal-Mart sent stocks lower, and credit followed suit. 10 year bank credits are usually the most visible in the cash markets, and they widened by about 5 basis points.
As a result, credit markets were very receptive to new issue in the early part of the week, but supply tapered off as spreads moved wider. $40 billion in investment grade corporates came to market, and follow-on secondary trading activity has been mixed. Most new issues look like they’re trading wider, some are trading tighter. Pfizer was among the biggest issuers, bringing $4.5 billion across five tranches, and Volkswagen did $3.5 billion. Pfizer bonds are lagging since their deal priced on Monday, with spreads wider by 3-5 basis points. The Volkswagen deal priced amid some spread weakness on Thursday, which perhaps explains why their bonds are trading 3-5 tighter.
At the same time, interest rate levels dropped to the low end of their range – 10 year rates dipped below 2.5%. Bottom line, even though credit felt squishy going into the end of the week, the average spread month to date has barely changed, and prices of investment grade bonds have moved higher. As one trader commented, in spite of the spread weakness, the market still feels constructive.
Or maybe the market just doesn’t know what else to do. It is totally hooked on central bank stimulus. Maybe I’m just 2 demanding, but it’s hard to see valuations surviving a hawkish attack.