- $17 trillion of investment-grade debt now has sub-zero rates
- U.K. and Australian central banks expand bond-buying programs
The market value of the Bloomberg Barclays Global Negative Yielding Debt Index rose to $17.05 trillion on Thursday, the highest level ever recorded and narrowly eclipsing the $17.04 trillion it reached in August 2019.
Almost $600 billion of bonds have seen their yields turn negative this week, meaning 26% of the world’s investment-grade debt is now sub-zero. Thanks to the slew of global issuance in 2020 as governments and companies wrestle with the impact of the coronavirus, that remains below 30% peak reached last year.
The borrowing binge has been mostly met with trillions of dollars of quantitative easing that suppress yields. Just this week, the Bank of England and Reserve Bank of Australia announced plans to expand their bond-buying programs, while the Federal Reserve discussed a shift.
For investors watching yields vanish, it’s become a dilemma: make riskier bets in order to boost income or accept lower returns.
“There are still return hurdles that investors will try to reach but that is not something you can get in a large share of fixed income products at this point,” said Richard Kelly, head of global strategy at Toronto-Dominion Bank. “This will drive a further push out the risk curve for investors, be that equities, credit, or long-end bonds.”
While much of the sub-zero debt pile is denominated in euros and yen, dashed expectations for a massive fiscal spending package under a unified Democratic government are also whittling down Treasury yields.
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