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Rieger Report: Illinois G.O.s on the Edge

Asian Fixed Income: An Update on the Indian Bond Market

Is Mexico Still Attractive to Foreigners?

Rieger Report: Infrastructure Bonds

A New Eden, Or Fewer Excuses

Rieger Report: Illinois G.O.s on the Edge

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J.R. Rieger

Head of Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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The recent ratings downgrades by both Moody’s and S&P Global Ratings have placed the State of Illinois general obligation bonds on the edge of becoming junk.  As of this writing, the ratings are Baa3/BBB-/BBB by Moody’s, S&P and Fitch.

The fiscal struggle endured by Illinois has indeed been a long one, now yields for Illinois G.O.s have finally begun to widen with the impetus of the downgrades. While there has been a spread between investment grade bonds and Illinois G.O.s  the muni market kept the yields for these bonds relatively consistent up until now.  Yield blindness or stated another way, the insatiable search for yield coupled with the low supply of higher yielding bonds has kept many weaker credits including Illinois from seeing higher spreads.

Chart 1: Yields of the S&P Municipal Bond Illinois General Obligation Index and the S&P Municipal Bond Investment Grade Index:

Source:: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of June 5, 2017. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

S&P Dow Jones Indices tracks approximately $8.5billion of State of Illinois G.O.s in our indices. The table below provides a snapshot of the percentage those bonds represent.  Note: Under S&P Dow Jones Indices methodology, the lowest rating determines if the bonds remain in the investment grade indices or are shifted to the high yield category.

Table 1: Percentage of total par value the State of Illinois G.O. bonds represent in select indices:

Source: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of June 5, 2017. Table is provided for illustrative purposes. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

For more information on S&P’s bond indices including methodologies and time series information please go to SPDJI.com.

Please join me on LinkedIn .

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Asian Fixed Income: An Update on the Indian Bond Market

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Michele Leung

Director, Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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As of June 5, 2017, the yield of Indian sovereign bonds, as tracked by the S&P BSE India Sovereign Bond Index, stood at 7.03%—the second-highest sovereign bond yield among the Pan Asian countries, following that of Indonesia, at 7.09%. The yield of the S&P BSE India Sovereign Bond Index climbed 19 bps YTD as of the same date, though it was still at a seven-year low (see Exhibit 1).   RBI has cut rates six times since January 2015.

Indian sovereign bonds currently represent 70% of the overall Indian bond market. Their total market value expanded fivefold to INR 52.7 billion in the past 10-years, outpacing the growth of the corporate bond market, which doubled to INR 24.2 during the same period.  Among corporate bonds, the biggest sector was financials, which represented 9% of the S&P BSE India Bond Index, while other sectors like services, utilities, and industrials contributed around 1% to the overall market.

Although the S&P BSE India Bond Index jumped 13.22% in 2016, Indian bonds have been lagging other Pan Asia countries in 2017; the index advanced only 1.71% YTD as of June 5, 2017. Looking at the risk/return profile in Exhibit 2, all indices have consistently delivered solid returns, in the range of 8% to 10%.  It is interesting to note that the S&P BSE India Corporate Bond Index had lower risk than sovereign bonds during all periods studied; this could probably be explained by the Indian corporate bond characteristics, which are relatively fragmented and less liquid than the sovereign bonds.

Exhibit 1: Yield-to-Worst of the S&P BSE India Sovereign Bond Index

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Is Mexico Still Attractive to Foreigners?

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Jaime Merino

Director, Asset Owners Channel

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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In an environment of increasing rates, Mexico has not been left behind.  As seen in my last blog, since December 2015, Mexico’s Central Bank (Banxico) has increased the reference rate by 375 bps, with the last 25 bps being a surprise for analysts and the market on May 19, 2017.  I remember the days when everyone was saying that Banxico would move with the U.S. Fed, but as of the same date, the U.S. Fed has increased its reference rate by only 75 bps. Their next meeting is in June 2017, and many analysts estimate an increase of 25 bps.  Exhibit 1 shows the spread between the Mexican 10-Year Bond and the U.S. 10-Year Treasury Bond for the 10–year period ending May 29, 2017, along with the performance of the S&P/BMV Government MBONOS 5-10 Year Bond Index.

For the past three years, the spread trend has been positive, with the most recent data above 500 bps.  Has this affected the inflows and outflows for sovereign instruments?  People often talk about Mbonos (fixed-rate sovereign instruments) that are held by non-residents, but let’s dig further into other issuances and total assets.  First, Exhibit 2 shows the historical behavior of the total percentage of sovereign debt held outside of Mexico.  As of May 22, 2017, a little bit more than one-third was held outside the country.  We also see a rapid increase between 2010 and 2012, from nearly 10% to 35%.  Exhibit 3 shows the annual inflows and outflows, expressed in millions of Mexican pesos, from January 2000 to May 22, 2017.

The trend for Mbonos is still positive, but by this time last year, the inflows were double what they are now.  For Udibonos and Cetes, the trend for the past three years has been downward, making 2016 the first year with total outflows since 2002.

Exhibit 4 shows the percentage of Mbonos, Udibonos, and Cetes held by international market participants; note that since September 2012, one-half of the total Mbonos have been held internationally, and at one point non-resident holdings of Cetes hit nearly 70%.

Sovereign bonds are still attractive to foreigners, but not to the same degree as in 2010 to 2014, when the search for yield spiked.  Over the past few years, no new inflows were presented, and we can assume that the position from Cetes moved to Mbonos.  Inflation instruments might be more attractive now, since, as shown in my last post, inflation has increased significantly, reaching 5.86% year-over-year in April 2017.

For more information about the indices following these instruments, please see: S&P/BMV Government CETES Bond Index, S&P/BMV Government MBONOS 1-5 Year Bond Index, S&P/BMV Government MBONOS 5-10 Year Bond Index, S&P/BMV Government Inflation-Linked UDIBONOS 1+ Year Bond Index.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

Rieger Report: Infrastructure Bonds

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J.R. Rieger

Head of Fixed Income Indices

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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With the President’s focus on the U.S. infrastructure this coming week it is a good time to look at the existing infrastructure bond markets.  Municipal bonds have long played a critical funding role in the U.S. infrastructure sector.

The 19,000 tax-exempt municipal bonds tracked in the S&P  Municipal Bond Infrastructure Index mainly consist of investment grade bonds related to the transportation (roads, airports et al) and utility (water, sewer, power, resource recovery) segments of the market. As these are revenue bonds with slightly longer durations the average yield is naturally higher than the overall market, Year-to-date this group of bonds have outperformed the investment grade muni market.

On the taxable side of the market, the S&P Taxable Municipal Bond Infrastructure Index consists of bonds from the same segments as it’s tax-exempt counterpart.  These taxable bonds have a duration of over 10 years making them appealing for the institutional market. In addition,  the low supply of these investment grade bonds have created a scarcity value.  As a result this segment of the bond market enjoys both a higher yield and overall better year-to-date performance than U.S. corporate bonds tracked in the S&P 500 Bond Index.

Table:  Select indices, their yields and year-to-date returns as of June 2, 2017:

Source:: S&P Dow Jones Indices, LLC. Data as of June 2, 2017. Chart is provided for illustrative purposes. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

For more information on S&P’s bond indices including methodologies and time series information please go to SPDJI.com.

Please join me on LinkedIn .

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.

A New Eden, Or Fewer Excuses

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Tim Edwards

Managing Director, Index Investment Strategy

S&P Dow Jones Indices

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In our May dispersion dashboard, we note that “If there is ever such thing as a “stock-pickers’ market”, then the month of May 2017 – at least in some regions – might be the closest approximation we have seen for a decade.”

The subject of what, exactly a “stock-pickers’ market” might look like, and how we would know when we are in one, has been a topic of extensive study and regular commentary.  First, we should explain what we mean by a “stock pickers’ market”.

One definition of a “stock pickers’ market” is a tailwind for concentrated bets, even if they are made by the unskilled investor.  Such an environment can be identified by the performance of equal-weight indices, since – if equal weight outperforms the cap-weighted benchmark then, by definition, the average stock outperforms.  The fortunes of concentrated portfolios, such as those maintained by a traditional stock-picker, are also impacted by the level of market skewness, among other factors of importance.

Alternatively, a “stock-pickers’ market” can mean that those stock-pickers with genuine skill (or luck) are particularly distinguished from those with less skill or less luck.  This is quite a different scenario to the one in which the “average” stock-picker is more likely to outperform – and with different characteristics:  

  1. First, it requires high dispersion: the difference between winners and losers should offer significant rewards to those who make the right calls.
  2. Second, it requires low correlations between different stocks: the stock picker prefers his picks to reflect the that characteristics made them more attractive than their peers in the first place, as opposed to shared drivers. This is different to high dispersion, although they often coincide.
  3. Third and finally, one would hope for low market volatility: the stock picker who outperforms the market, yet is whipped around along with it, has not only a more stressful experience (or at least his clients do), but also is provided with a less clear signal of his skills.

The charts below show the levels of dispersion, correlation and volatility recorded in the month of May in several of the major markets covered by S&P Dow Jones Indices.  The charts place each measurement in their historical context: the level for the most recent month is the coloured dot; the light grey bars represent the middle 90% of all observations in the past decade, while the dark grey bars represent the middle 50%.  A single black line represents the historical median:

In several of these regions, most notably in countries such as Australia and Japan, and in market segments such as U.S. small caps, as well as across the broad-based S&P Developed ex-U.S. LargeMid BMI universe, benchmark volatility and average stock correlations stand at or near record lows, while dispersion has risen  above average.

Raising the stakes, May was also a month in which there were headwinds for the unlucky, and the unskilled.  As reported in our standard dashboards, equal-weight indices under-performed in the U.S. and in Europe, while smaller stocks outperformed the very largest more generally across Asia.

What does this mean for active mangers?  The month of May, 2017 provided an example of market circumstances favouring the skillful or lucky stock-picker, but not the average.  And while one swallow does not make a summer, if such an environment should persist through the rest of the year, then there will be fewer excuses for poor performance at the end of it.

The posts on this blog are opinions, not advice. Please read our Disclaimers.