Through the first weeks of May, the loan-market’s 2013 rally persisted, however, loan prices eased about a quarter point in the last week of May. On the whole, the loan market has been resilient, bolstered by inflows from retail and institutional investors looking to loans as a way to hedge against rising rates. Looking ahead, participants expect tone in the HY market to remain a key driver of loan market conditions.
Reviewing the details:
Through the first three weeks of May, the loan-market’s virtually uninterrupted 2013 rally persisted. During the final week of the month, however, loan prices eased about a quarter point. The reason was twofold. For one thing, high-beta names came under selling pressure from high-yield accounts seeking to build cash in the teeth of outflows. For another, an increase in loan supply helped soak up some of excess liquidity that has long kept prices aloft. Thus, after generating a 0.50% return during the first 22 days of May, the S&P/LSTA Index lost 0.31% during the final 9 days of the month. All told, then, the Index eked out a 0.19% gain in May – the smallest monthly advance in a year. Still, with the 10-year Treasury yield up about 50 bps in May, loans handily outperformed fixed-income products.
With CLO issuance still curtailed in May, visible inflows again fell short of the first quarter’s sky-high levels. In all, investors put $10.7 billion to work in the asset class in May, including $4.9 billion of new CLO prints and $5.8 billion in retail mutual fund subscriptions based on data from Lipper FMI.
On the other side of the technical ledger, the amount of S&P/LSTA Index loans outstanding increased $5.5 billion in May. But that was only the start. Owing to a slew of large M&A-driven executions in recent months, the backlog of new-money loans that have allocated but not yet funded into the index stood at $33 billion by the end of May, putting further pressure on loan prices.
The impact of the market’s late May swoon was felt mainly in the secondary. In the primary market, by contrast, clearing yields were largely stable with BB loans printed in a 3-3.5% band and single B’s in a 5.0% context. That said, managers were able to push back again some of the more aggressive transactions that launched in late May and early June.
Dividend financing was a major source of new primary product in May. Indeed, the amount of dividends financed by leveraged loans pushed to a record $7 billion during the month.
Turning to credit conditions, the default rate retreated to 1.4% in May from April in 1.9% and a 28-month high of 2.2% in March. Managers are constructive on the near-term outlook. On average, they expect the rate to tick up to 1.8% or so by December according to LCD latest buy-side poll taken in mid-March.
On the whole, the loan market has been resilient, bolstered by inflows from retail and institutional investors looking to loans as a way to hedge against rising rates.
As a result, the new-issue clearing yields have moved up only marginally in recent weeks.
Looking ahead, participants expect tone in the HY market to remain a key driver of loan market conditions.
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– Steve Miller