U.S. Leveraged Loan Market Sinking

The top-performing U.S. debt market is “showing a few cracks,” according to an article in Bloomberg that reports that it is priced at its lowest level since 2016.

“And there are other signs of cooling in loans too,” the article reports, citing Bloomberg data showing that the percentage of new deals that had to increase pricing spiked in November to the highest level of 2018.

But there are still plenty of new debt getting sold, the article says, and the debt showed gains last year (data through November) of approximately 3.1% (including interest), “performing better than U.S. junk bonds and investment-grade notes.” Any weakness in the market, it adds, could evaporate in the new year. But the “difficulty in lending markets underscores that even the relatively safe corners of credit—loans are insulated from interest-rate hikes and are first in line to be repaid when a company fails—can suffer when money managers get worried.”

“People are generally avoiding risk and there’s no need to chase new issues,” according to Octagon Credit Investors co-chief investment officer Michael Nechamkin.

The article adds that investors are gaining the upper hand in the loan market, evidenced by a dip in the leveraged loan price index.