Eoin Treacy's view -
There is no immediate connection (other than for companies doing business there) between the slowdown and the price decline in the oil patch, on one hand, and the general creditworthiness and desirability of high-risk debt on the others. And yet, over the last few months, pronounced changes occurred in the market for distressed debt:
After a period of very stable prices – ever for “iffy” debt 0 some securities have “gaped down” in the last few months (i.e. fallen several points at a time rather than correcting gradually). In particular, investors have become highly intolerant of bad corporate news.
For the first time since 2008-09, the debt of some companies outside of Energy and mining has fallen from 80 to 60 and others from 50 to 20.
There is a general sense among my colleagues that investors have gone from evaluating securities based on the attractiveness of their yield (with companies fundamentals viewed optimistically (to judging them on the basis of the likely recovery in a restructuring (with fundamentals viewed pessimistically).
The capital markets have begun the swing from generous toward tight, as is their habit. Thus, whereas they used to find it easy to refinance debt I order to extend maturities or secure “rescue financing” now it’s hard for companies – especially those experiencing any degrees of difficulty – to obtain capital.
On December 7, Oaktree held a dinner in New York for equity analysts who follow out publicly traded units. Bob O’Leary, a co-portfolio manager of our distressed debt funds, planned to be among the hosts. But he called me on December 3 with a question I hadn’t heard in a long time from my distressed colleagues. “Would you mind if I don’t come? There’s too much going on for me to leave the office“. The change in investor attitudes had created investment opportunities where they hadn’t existed just a few months before – in some cases out of proportion to the change in fundamentals.
Developments like these are indicative of rising pessimism, skepticism and fear. They’re largely what Oaktree hopes for, since – everything else being equal – they make for vastly improved buying opportunities. But note that we may be just in the early stages of a downward spiral in corporate performance and credit market behaviour. Thus, while this may be “a time” to buy, I’m far from suggesting it’s “the time”.
This is balanced piece and it’s really worth taking time over the weekend to read it in full.
In August I described the price action following the volatility across ETFs as a massive reaction against the prevailing trend and therefore confirmation of Type-2 topping characteristics. Following such an event investors invariably ask if anything has really changed and whether the widespread experience of being stopped out of positions will have a lasting effect. At the time I drew parallels with the flash crash in 2011 because that was the last time investors had experienced a similar event albeit now from a higher level.
This section continues in the Subscriber's Area. Back to top