The Great Unwind Has Begun, Bankruptcies Soar…”A year that “makes false prophets” of those who assumed there’d be no shocks.”

Saturday, August 8, 2015
By Paul Martin

by Wolf Richter
August 7, 2015

The junk-bond market lost money in July. Not a lot, 0.62%. But it did so after having already lost money in June. It was the third losing month so far this year, despite their “high” coupon payments that make these bonds look so juicy to yield-desperate fund managers.

Until recently, they were superb investments, riding up the credit boom. Junk-bond guru Marty Fridson, CIO of Lehmann Livian Fridson Advisors, explained it this way in a note for S&P Capital IQ LCD:

Strategists frequently take the easy way out in their year-ahead outlooks by predicting that the high-yield market will “earn the coupon.” At this stage, 2015 is shaping up as another year that makes false prophets of those who assumed, in the face of overwhelming experience to the contrary, that it would be free of both positive and negative shocks.

But it’s just the timid beginning.

The Fed hasn’t even raised interest rates yet, and the largest credit bubble in history continues to inflate. But it has begun to hiss hot air at the margins where the riskiest junk bonds, rated CCC or below, have plunged in value and where average yields have soared from a ludicrous low of 8% a year ago to over 13% now. That rout is far from over.

No matter how terrible and obvious the risks, fund managers, driven to near insanity by the Fed’s zero-interest-rate policy, held their noses and closed their eyes and picked up the worst junk, thus continuing to fund over-leveraged, money-losing, cash-flow negative companies that should have been restructured or liquidated years ago.

These investors provided the new money that kept the charade going and bailed out the old money. Energy companies are at the center. But it’s spreading beyond them. And all this debt on their balance sheets is now coming home to roost, under the supervision of the courts.

The Rest…HERE

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