A high-yield bond (non-investment-grade bond, speculative-grade bond, or junk bond) is a term in finance for a bond that is rated below investment grade. These bonds have a higher risk of default or other adverse credit events, but typically pay higher yields than better quality bonds in order to make them attractive to investors.
The holder of any debt is subject to interest rate risk and credit risk, inflationary risk, currency risk, duration risk, convexity risk, repayment of principal risk, streaming income risk, liquidity risk, default risk, maturity risk, reinvestment risk, market risk, political risk, and taxation adjustment risk. Interest rate risk refers to the risk of the market value of a bond changing due to changes in the structure or level of interest rates or credit spreads or risk premiums. The credit risk of a high-yield bond refers to the probability and probable loss upon a credit event (i.e., the obligor defaults on scheduled payments or files for bankruptcy, or the bond is restructured), or a credit quality change is issued by a rating agency including Fitch, Moody's, or Standard & Poors.
A credit rating agency attempts to describe the risk with a credit rating such as AAA. In North America, the five major agencies are Standard & Poor's, Moody's, Fitch Ratings, Dominion Bond Rating Service and A.M. Best. Bonds in other countries may be rated by US rating agencies or by local credit rating agencies. Rating scales vary; the most popular scale uses (in order of increasing risk) ratings of AAA, AA, A, BBB, BB, B, CCC, CC, C, with the additional rating D for debt already in arrears. Government bonds and bonds issued by government-sponsored enterprises (GSEs) are often considered to be in a zero-risk category above AAA; and categories like AA and A may sometimes be split into finer subdivisions like "AA−" or "AA+".
Bonds rated BBB− and higher are called investment grade bonds. Bonds rated lower than investment grade on their date of issue are called speculative grade bonds, or colloquially as "junk" bonds.
The lower-rated debt typically offers a higher yield, making speculative bonds attractive investment vehicles for certain types of portfolios and strategies. Many pension funds and other investors (banks, insurance companies), however, are prohibited in their by-laws from investing in bonds which have ratings below a particular level. As a result, the lower-rated securities have a different investor base than investment-grade bonds.
The value of speculative bonds is affected to a higher degree than investment grade bonds by the possibility of default. For example, in a recession interest rates may drop, and the drop in interest rates tends to increase the value of investment grade bonds; however, a recession tends to increase the possibility of default in speculative-grade bonds.
The original speculative grade bonds were bonds that once had been investment grade at time of issue, but where the credit rating of the issuer had slipped and the possibility of default increased significantly. These bonds are called "fallen angels".
The investment banker Michael Milken realized that fallen angels had regularly been valued less than what they were worth. His time with speculative grade bonds started with his investment in these. Only later did he and other investment bankers at Drexel Burnham Lambert, followed by those of competing firms, begin organizing the issue of bonds that were speculative grade from the start. Speculative grade bonds thus became ubiquitous in the 1980s as a financing mechanism in mergers and acquisitions. In a leveraged buyout (LBO), an acquirer would issue speculative grade bonds to help pay for an acquisition and then use the target's cash flow to help pay the debt over time.
In 2005, over 80% of the principal amount of high-yield debt issued by U.S. companies went toward corporate purposes rather than acquisitions or buyouts.
In emerging markets, such as China and Vietnam, bonds have become increasingly important as term financing options, since access to traditional bank credits has always been proved to be limited, especially if borrowers are non-state corporates. The corporate bond market has been developing in line with the general trend of capital market, and equity market in particular.
High-yield bonds can also be repackaged into collateralized debt obligations (CDO), thereby raising the credit rating of the senior tranches above the rating of the original debt. The senior tranches of high-yield CDOs can thus meet the minimum credit rating requirements of pension funds and other institutional investors despite the significant risk in the original high-yield debt.
When such CDOs are backed by assets of dubious value, such as subprime mortgage loans, and lose market liquidity, the bonds and their derivatives become what is referred to as "toxic debt". Holding such "toxic" assets led to the demise of several investment banks such as Lehman Brothers and other financial institutions during the subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–09 and led the US Treasury to seek congressional appropriations to buy those assets in September 2008 to prevent a systemic crisis of the banks.
Such assets represent a serious problem for purchasers because of their complexity. Having been repackaged perhaps several times, it is difficult and time-consuming for auditors and accountants to determine their true value. As the recession of 2008–09 hit, their value decreased further as more debtors defaulted, so they represented a rapidly depreciating asset. Even those assets that might have gone up in value in the long-term depreciated rapidly, quickly becoming "toxic" for the banks that held them.Toxic assets, by increasing the variance of banks' assets, can turn otherwise healthy institutions into zombies. Potentially insolvent banks made too few good loans creating a debt overhang problem. Alternatively, potentially insolvent banks with toxic assets sought out very risky speculative loans to shift risk onto their depositors and other creditors.
On March 23, 2009, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced a Public-Private Investment Partnership (PPIP) to buy toxic assets from banks' balance sheets. The major stock market indices in the United States rallied on the day of the announcement rising by over six percent with the shares of bank stocks leading the way.PPIP has two primary programs. The Legacy Loans Program will attempt to buy residential loans from banks' balance sheets. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will provide non-recourse loan guarantees for up to 85 percent of the purchase price of legacy loans. Private sector asset managers and the U.S. Treasury will provide the remaining assets. The second program is called the legacy securities program which will buy mortgage backed securities (RMBS) that were originally rated AAA and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and asset-backed securities (ABS) which are rated AAA. The funds will come in many instances in equal parts from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program monies, private investors, and from loans from the Federal Reserve's Term Asset Lending Facility (TALF). The initial size of the Public Private Investment Partnership is projected to be $500 billion. Nobel Prize–winning economist Paul Krugman has been very critical of this program arguing the non-recourse loans lead to a hidden subsidy that will be split by asset managers, banks' shareholders and creditors. Banking analyst Meredith Whitney argues that banks will not sell bad assets at fair market values because they are reluctant to take asset write downs. Removing toxic assets would also reduce the volatility of banks' stock prices. Because stock is akin to a call option on a firm's assets, this lost volatility will hurt the stock price of distressed banks. Therefore, such banks will only sell toxic assets at above market prices.
High-yield bond indices exist for dedicated investors in the market. Indices for the broad high-yield market include the S&P U.S. Issued High Yield Corporate Bond Index (SPUSCHY), CSFB High Yield II Index (CSHY), Citigroup US High-Yield Market Index, the Merrill Lynch High Yield Master II (H0A0), the Barclays High Yield Index, and the Bear Stearns High Yield Index (BSIX). Some investors, preferring to dedicate themselves to higher-rated and less-risky investments, use an index that only includes BB-rated and B-rated securities, such as the Merrill Lynch Global High Yield BB-B Rated Index (HW40). Other investors focus on the lowest quality debt rated CCC or distressed securities, commonly defined as those yielding 1500 basis points over equivalent government bonds.
On 27 April 2010, the Greek debt rating was decreased to "junk" status by Standard & Poor's amidst fears of default by the Greek Government.They also cut Portugal's credit ratings by two notches to A, over concerns about its state debt and public finances on 28 April. On 5 July 2011, Portugal's rating was decreased to "junk" status by Moody's (by four notches from Baa1 to Ba2) saying there was a growing risk the country would need a second bail-out before it was ready to borrow money from financial markets again, and private lenders might have to contribute.
On 13 July 2012, Moody's cut Italy's credit rating two notches, to Baa2 (leaving it just above junk). Moody's warned the country it could be cut further.
With the ongoing deleveraging process within the European banking system, many European CFOs are still issuing high-yield bonds. As a result, by the end of September 2012, the total amount of annual primary bond issuances stood at € 50 billion. It is assumed that high-yield bonds are still attractive for companies with a stable funding base, although the ratings have declined continuously for most of those bonds.
In finance, a bond is an instrument of indebtedness of the bond issuer to the holders. The most common types of bonds include municipal bonds and corporate bonds.
A government bond or sovereign bond is a bond issued by a national government, generally with a promise to pay periodic interest payments called coupon payments and to repay the face value on the maturity date. The aim of a government bond is to support government spending. Government bonds are usually denominated in the country's own currency, in which case the government cannot be forced to default, although it may choose to do so. If a government is close to default on its debt the media often refer to this as a sovereign debt crisis.
Debt is when something, usually money, is owed by one party, the borrower or debtor, to a second party, the lender or creditor. Debt is a deferred payment, or series of payments, that is owed in the future, which is what differentiates it from an immediate purchase. The debt may be owed by sovereign state or country, local government, company, or an individual. Commercial debt is generally subject to contractual terms regarding the amount and timing of repayments of principal and interest. Loans, bonds, notes, and mortgages are all types of debt. The term can also be used metaphorically to cover moral obligations and other interactions not based on economic value. For example, in Western cultures, a person who has been helped by a second person is sometimes said to owe a "debt of gratitude" to the second person.
A credit rating agency is a company that assigns credit ratings, which rate a debtor's ability to pay back debt by making timely principal and interest payments and the likelihood of default. An agency may rate the creditworthiness of issuers of debt obligations, of debt instruments, and in some cases, of the servicers of the underlying debt, but not of individual consumers.
In finance, a credit derivative refers to any one of "various instruments and techniques designed to separate and then transfer the credit risk" or the risk of an event of default of a corporate or sovereign borrower, transferring it to an entity other than the lender or debtholder.
Fixed income refers to any type of investment under which the borrower or issuer is obliged to make payments of a fixed amount on a fixed schedule. For example, the borrower may have to pay interest at a fixed rate once a year, and to repay the principal amount on maturity. Fixed-income securities can be contrasted with equity securities – often referred to as stocks and shares – that create no obligation to pay dividends or any other form of income.
A credit rating is an evaluation of the credit risk of a prospective debtor, predicting their ability to pay back the debt, and an implicit forecast of the likelihood of the debtor defaulting. The credit rating represents an evaluation of a credit rating agency of the qualitative and quantitative information for the prospective debtor, including information provided by the prospective debtor and other non-public information obtained by the credit rating agency's analysts.
A corporate bond is a bond issued by a corporation in order to raise financing for a variety of reasons such as to ongoing operations, M&A, or to expand business. The term is usually applied to longer-term debt instruments, with maturity of at least one year. Corporate debt instruments with maturity shorter than one year are referred to as commercial paper.
Structured finance is a sector of finance, specifically financial law that manages leverage and risk. Strategies may involve legal and corporate restructuring, off balance sheet accounting, or the use of financial instruments.
A collateralized debt obligation (CDO) is a type of structured asset-backed security (ABS). Originally developed as instruments for the corporate debt markets, after 2002 CDOs became vehicles for refinancing mortgage-backed securities (MBS). Like other private label securities backed by assets, a CDO can be thought of as a promise to pay investors in a prescribed sequence, based on the cash flow the CDO collects from the pool of bonds or other assets it owns. Distinctively, CDO credit risk is typically assessed based on a probability of default (PD) derived from ratings on those bonds or assets. The CDO is "sliced" into "tranches", which "catch" the cash flow of interest and principal payments in sequence based on seniority. If some loans default and the cash collected by the CDO is insufficient to pay all of its investors, those in the lowest, most "junior" tranches suffer losses first. The last to lose payment from default are the safest, most senior tranches. Consequently, coupon payments vary by tranche with the safest/most senior tranches receiving the lowest rates and the lowest tranches receiving the highest rates to compensate for higher default risk. As an example, a CDO might issue the following tranches in order of safeness: Senior AAA ; Junior AAA; AA; A; BBB; Residual.
A syndicated loan is one that is provided by a group of lenders and is structured, arranged, and administered by one or several commercial banks or investment banks known as lead arrangers.
A credit linked note (CLN) is a form of funded credit derivative. It is structured as a security with an embedded credit default swap allowing the issuer to transfer a specific credit risk to credit investors. The issuer is not obligated to repay the debt if a specified event occurs. This eliminates a third-party insurance provider.
Moody's Investors Service, often referred to as Moody's, is the bond credit rating business of Moody's Corporation, representing the company's traditional line of business and its historical name. Moody's Investors Service provides international financial research on bonds issued by commercial and government entities. Moody's, along with Standard & Poor's and Fitch Group, is considered one of the Big Three credit rating agencies.
The bond market is a financial market where participants can issue new debt, known as the primary market, or buy and sell debt securities, known as the secondary market. This is usually in the form of bonds, but it may include notes, bills, and so on.
A bond fund or debt fund is a fund that invests in bonds, or other debt securities. Bond funds can be contrasted with stock funds and money funds. Bond funds typically pay periodic dividends that include interest payments on the fund's underlying securities plus periodic realized capital appreciation. Bond funds typically pay higher dividends than CDs and money market accounts. Most bond funds pay out dividends more frequently than individual bonds.
In investment, the bond credit rating represents the credit worthiness of corporate or government bonds. It is not the same as individual's credit score. The ratings are published by credit rating agencies and used by investment professionals to assess the likelihood the debt will be repaid.
The risk–return spectrum is the relationship between the amount of return gained on an investment and the amount of risk undertaken in that investment. The more return sought, the more risk that must be undertaken.
Credit rating agencies (CRAs)—firms which rate debt instruments/securities according to the debtor's ability to pay lenders back—played a significant role at various stages in the American subprime mortgage crisis of 2007–2008 that led to the great recession of 2008–2009. The new, complex securities of "structured finance" used to finance subprime mortgages could not have been sold without ratings by the "Big Three" rating agencies—Moody's Investors Service, Standard & Poor's, and Fitch Ratings. A large section of the debt securities market—many money markets and pension funds—were restricted in their bylaws to holding only the safest securities—i.e. securities the rating agencies designated "triple-A". The pools of debt the agencies gave their highest ratings to included over three trillion dollars of loans to homebuyers with bad credit and undocumented incomes through 2007. Hundreds of billions of dollars' worth of these triple-A securities were downgraded to "junk" status by 2010, and the writedowns and losses came to over half a trillion dollars. This led "to the collapse or disappearance" in 2008–09 of three major investment banks, and the federal governments buying of $700 billion of bad debt from distressed financial institutions.
A toxic asset is a financial asset that has fallen in value significantly and for which there is no longer a functioning market. Such assets cannot be sold at a price satisfactory to the holder. Because assets are offset against liabilities and frequently leveraged, this decline in price may be quite dangerous to the holder. The term became common during the financial crisis of 2007-2008, in which they played a major role.
Securitization is the financial practice of pooling various types of contractual debt such as residential mortgages, commercial mortgages, auto loans or credit card debt obligations and selling their related cash flows to third party investors as securities, which may be described as bonds, pass-through securities, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). Investors are repaid from the principal and interest cash flows collected from the underlying debt and redistributed through the capital structure of the new financing. Securities backed by mortgage receivables are called mortgage-backed securities (MBS), while those backed by other types of receivables are asset-backed securities (ABS).
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