Over the past year, one of the key concerns to emerge in the $6.4 trillion investment grade corporate bond market is when and how will BBB-rated bonds, which now comprise 60% of all outstanding IG names in the US, be downgraded and whether a new financial crisis will follow
We addressed this issue most recently in “The $6.4 Trillion Question: How Many BBB Bonds Are About To Be Downgraded” while the broader question of the “next bond crisis” was address in “Over $1 Trillion In Bonds Risk Cut To Junk Once Cycle Turns.” It wasn’t just us, however, with financial luminaries, regulators and investors such as the Fed, the BOE, the IMF, Oaktree’s Howard Marks, Doubleline’s Jeff Gundlach, JPMorgan, and Guggenheim all warning that the “fallen angel” threat is arguably the most serious challenge facing the US corporate bond market during the next recession.
And now, it’s the turn of the central banks’ central bank, the Bank of International Settlements, to join the bandwagon, warning that the surging supply of corporate debt in the riskiest, BBB investment-grade category has left markets vulnerable to a crash once economic weakness triggers a bout of rating downgrades, and sends over $1 trillion in IG bonds, or fallen angels, right into junk bond purgatory.
Highlighting numbers which have been discussed previously, the BIS notes that in 2018, BBB-rated bonds accounted for about 45% of U.S. and European mutual fund portfolios, up from only 20% in 2010, according to the BIS, and cautions that due to rating trigger limitations, many investors may have to sell those bonds if they fall out of the investment-grade scale.
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