Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Muni & Corporate bond Comments 3/11/09

The treasury market continued its selloff yesterday, while Muni's and Corporates are both cheapening in price, widening in spread.

The Muni market hit a wall about two weeks ago, spreads have been widening versus the MMD scale ever since. Supply in the muni market has also been very robust, with 7BB worth of New Issues coming in each of the last few weeks.

In the high tax states, 10yr Ma State GO has widened over 25 BP's, now trading at +35 to scale.. NY City GO's have widened about 30, now trade +155 over the MMD.. Cal is trading +150 these days, but that widening took place earlier.

Corporate Bonds, which had tightened at a torrid pace from November thru mid February have slid recently

In both sectors, the market had moved too far, too fast. Take advantage of these back ups. The recession will pressure both sectors from a credit perspective, but diligent selection will provide great opportunities. Quality Investment Grade Bonds yielding 4 to 7.5% make great sense, and Muni's will be in greater and greater demand over the next few years as inevitably State and Federal Tax Rates rise.

In Agency Securities, the FDIC Insured Corporate Bond sector continues to explode in size. The market has now grown to over 100BB, since its initial issuance in November. These bonds have NO CREDIT RISK, as they carry the governments Full Faith and Credit backing.. 2 year bonds trade at 70 Basis Points over Treasurys @ 1.70% 3 year Bonds @ 80 Over Treasurys or 2.20%... More than ever, FNMA FHLMC and FHLB will be leaned on by the government to help resolve the Mortgage Crisis, and I reckon that credit risk in those entities is miniscule. Bonds with at least 1 year of call protection are the best value.

LIQUIDITY FOR SECURITIES THAT ARE IMPAIRED REMAINS AWFUL. In credit, there are MANY MANY MULTIPLES OF SELLERS of AIG and its entities International Lease Finance, and American General, HSBC, Citigroup, Bank America, Merrill Lynch, Prudential, Genworth Financial, Hartford Insurance, Ford, and GMAC FOR ANY BUYER... CPI Floating Rate Notes, and Bill Based Floating rate notes also struggle to find a Bid Side..

The large global Financial Issues (1BB+ in size) which in previous years would have a daily trading volume of 30-40mm Bonds per day, in today's market might only trade a few million, sometimes much less on a given day.

In Municipal's, bonds that have only insured ratings, and/or weak underlying ratings are also a struggle to sell. In my opinion, the market has had a structural change with the losses of a number of large brokerage company balance sheets, and the liquidation of so many levered hedge funds..In the past, these were the buyers of last resort, who could be counted on providing a "down" bid..but it was liquidity nonetheless.

On the flip side, keep in mind that quality paper in any sector will have a decent bid, in even poor market conditions. In Muni's, that means Hi Quality State, County and City GO's and essential purpose revs.. In Corporates, companies that have solid investment grade ratings, and good cash flow.

The banking crisis and the economy will still be down for longer than anyone wants to believe.

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