On March 5 in the U.S. bond market, there were 32,921 bond trades in 5,002 non-call fixed rate corporate bond issues representing $11,536,651,469 in notional principal. Which 20 trades were the best trades of the day, and how do we decide the answer to that question? Today, we answer these same questions for bonds with maturities of 10 years or longer, updating our most recent report on long-term fixed income investment opportunities.
Conclusion: We find the best-value non-call senior fixed rate 10-year or longer maturity bond trades on March 5, 2014 were issues by these issuers:
- GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP INC. (NYSE:GS), 2 issues
- KINDER MORGAN ENERGY PARTNERS LP (NYSE:KMP)
- SUNCOR ENERGY INC. (NYSE:SU), 2 issues
- JPMORGAN CHASE & CO. (NYSE:JPM), 2 issues
- CITIGROUP INC. (NYSE:C), 2 issues
- PRUDENTIAL FINANCIAL INC. (NYSE:PRU)
- HSBC HOLDINGS PLC (NYSE:HSBC)
- AMGEN INC. (NASDAQ:AMGN)
- SUNAMERICA FINANCIAL GROUP INC., an affiliate of AIG (NYSE:AIG)
- WELLPOINT INC. (WLP)
- SAFEWAY INC. (NYSE:SWY)
- HCA INC. (NYSE:HCA)
- VALERO ENERGY CORP. (NYSE:VLO)
- TIME WARNER CABLE ENTERPRISES LLC (NYSE:TWC)
- WELLS FARGO & CO. (NYSE:WFC)
- SHELL INTERNATIONAL FINANCE BV (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B) (OTCPK:RYDAF) (OTCPK:RYDBF)
Best Value Long Maturity Bond Trades for March 5, 2014
In analyzing the best trades of the day, we used these criteria:
Bond type: Fixed rate
Seniority: Senior debt
Trade Volume: $5 million or more
Maturity: 10 years or more
We ignored legacy ratings in making today's selection, but 19 of the 20 best trades had an investment grade rating by the pre-Dodd Frank Act definition. There were 6 trades among the 75 that met our criteria that were not "investment grade" by the legacy credit ratings definition. We used the same criterion for "best" that we have used in recent analyses of bonds issued by Cisco Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CSCO), Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG), Anheuser-Busch InBev S. A. (NYSE:BUD), International Business Machines (NYSE:IBM), Royal Dutch Shell PLC , Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE:WMT), Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL), Ford Motor Company (NYSE:F), Sprint Communications Inc. (NYSE:S), Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE:VZ), and General Electric Capital Corporation (NYSE:GE). That criterion is the reward to risk ratio, calculated as the ratio of credit spread to matched-maturity default probability. The default probabilities used are described in detail in the daily default probability analysis posted by Kamakura Corporation. Both the credit spreads and default probabilities are reported as percent figures. The full text of the Dodd-Frank legislation as it concerns the definition of "investment grade" is summarized at the end of our analysis of Citigroup bonds published December 9, 2013.
The distribution of credit spreads on the 75 trades is given in this histogram:
The lowest credit spread among the 75 trades was 0.71%. The median credit spread was 1.32%. The highest credit spread, 6.66%, was on the 7.625% bonds due March 1, 2097 and issued by J. C. Penney Corporation (NYSE:JCP). Another J.C. Penney issue due April 1, 2037 had a credit spread of 6.64%.
The distribution of the credit spread to default probability ratio is given in this histogram:
The two firms with the lowest credit spread to default probability ratio were Novartis Capital Corporation, an affiliate of Novartis A.G. (NYSE:NVS), and J. C. Penney Corporation. The credit spread to default probability ratios on the three Novartis bonds were 1.373, 1.273, and 1.253. The credit spread to default probability ratios on the J.C. Penney bonds were 1.22 and 1.21. The median credit spread to default probability ratio was 8.23 and the average of all 75 bonds was 10.46.
Here are the results for the top 20, ranked by the credit spread to default probability ratio, with a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. bond issue the winner at a reward to risk ratio of 41.595 times:
Background on the Calculations
Assuming the recovery rate in the event of default would be the same on all bond issues, a sophisticated investor who has moved beyond legacy ratings seeks to maximize revenue per basis point of default risk from each incremental investment, subject to risk limits on macro-factor exposure on a fully default-adjusted basis.
Maximizing the ratio of credit spread to matched-maturity default probabilities requires that default probabilities be available at a wide range of maturities. We used the default probabilities supplied by Kamakura Corporation's KRIS default probability service, interpolated to a matched-maturity basis to the exact day of bond maturity. For maturities longer than ten years, we assume that the ten-year default probability is a good estimate of default risk.
Bond yields are secured from TRACE. The National Association of Securities Dealers launched the TRACE (Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine) system in July 2002 in order to increase price transparency in the U.S. corporate debt market. The system captures information on secondary market transactions in publicly traded securities (investment grade, high yield and convertible corporate debt) representing all over-the-counter market activity in these bonds.
We used the trade-weighted average yield reported by TRACE for each of the bond issues analyzed. We calculated the credit spread using the matched-maturity yield on U.S. Treasury bonds, interpolated from the Federal Reserve H15 statistical release for the trade date. The source of the information on the H15 release is the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Forward-Looking Best Value Bond Selection
Today's analysis looks back at yesterday's trades. A forward-looking bond selection based on today's prices at this instant is done in the same way, with slight differences in the data sources.
Regular readers of these notes are aware that we generally do not list the major news headlines relevant to the firms in question. We believe that other authors on Seeking Alpha, Yahoo, at The New York Times, The Financial Times, and the Wall Street Journal do a fine job of this. Our omission of those headlines is intentional. Similarly, to argue that a specific news event is more important than all other news events in the outlook for the firm is something we again believe is inappropriate for this author. Our focus is on current bond prices, credit spreads, and default probabilities, key statistics that we feel are critical for both fixed income and equity investors.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
Additional disclosure: Kamakura Corporation has business relationships with a number of organizations mentioned in the article.