Monday, December 09, 2013
An Excellent BIS Article
1) Central banks are in control of the conditions through their efforts at monetary easing.
2) Low investment opportunities in emerging markets have led to a search for other opportunities.
3) The focus has shifted to corporate bond issuance, and in the Euro area this is a big change:
The credit environment has benefited large non-financial corporates more than banks domiciled in advanced economies. Struggling to regain markets' confidence during the past five years, these banks have consistently faced higher borrowing costs than non-financial corporates with a similar credit rating. While the cost gap narrowed more recently, especially in the United States, it continued to exert upward pressure on bank lending rates. This prompted large non-financial firms to resort directly to debt markets, thus spurring corporate bond issuance. As a result, markets eclipsed banks as a source of new credit to corporates in the euro area.4) The growth in corporates this year is mostly on the riskier side:
In the syndicated loan market, "leveraged" loans - granted to low-rated, highly leveraged borrowers - accounted for roughly 40% of new signings from July to November (Graph 3, centre panel). Remarkably, throughout most of 2013, this share was higher than during the pre-crisis period from 2005 to mid-2007. This was the result of both higher volumes of riskier loans (blue bars) and lower volumes in the safer part of the spectrum (red bars). In parallel, investors' drive towards high-yield credit resulted in a gradually falling share of those syndicated loans that feature creditor protection in the form of covenants (Graph 3, right-hand panel).5) BIS seemed a little startled by the sudden yen for rolling bonds (the company doesn't have to pay the interest - instead it can just issue new bonds), despite the 30% default rate experienced in recent history:
The trend towards riskier credit was fairly general. It spurred, for example, the market for payment-in-kind notes, which give the borrower an option to repay lenders by issuing additional debt. Investors' renewed interest in these instruments resulted in more than $9 billion of new issuance over the first three quarters of 2013, one third higher than the overall issuance volume in 2012.6) A sucker is born every minute, and PT Barnum's spiritual sons are working as European bankers and PE credit brokers:
Similarly, industry reports underscored the growing share of debt in funding private equity takeovers. In the United States, this share increased steadily after 2009 to reach two thirds in October 2013, a level similar to that in 2006-07. For their part, European banks took advantage of the borrower's market by stepping up issuance of subordinated debt, thus increasing the cushion that insulates their senior creditors from the fallout of potential future distress.This goes on and on, but the most important part comes at the end. The easy credit granted to large corporates in the markets is not extending to smaller businesses, who are paying a large comparative tariff. This does not bode well for expansion, and it indirectly explains why low growth persists in spite of historically extreme easy money policies.
It's hard to see why this would stop - both India and China have credit difficulties of their own. In China's case, the rolling loan policy toward large state-ish companies has produced an epic wave of repayment dates and amounts in 2014, and no one knows what will happen. Will the plugs start to be pulled? Or will local Chinese governments keep the life-support plugged in? Sooner or later it will end.
However, as soon as interest rates do rise, corporations with a lot of debt will face difficulties in controlling future cash flows. Letting this trend continue for too long will result in future investment losses. .
Then in the US a lot of corporate debt can arise from the buyouts, in which cash-rich corps are bought, the cash is stripped and replaced with debt. The workers' comp gets cut, and then the future ability of the company to invest is lessened.
When too many companies get overloaded with debt, it does cut investment and makes a rise in interest rates very problematic. It seems like this sort of behavior is rising very fast.
Meta observation. If you control the money presses why borrow at all? There are two answers and I am not sure which is more disturbing.