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Summary

  • Quantitative default probabilities have been found to be much more accurate than legacy credit ratings as credit risk assessment tools.
  • We use those default probabilities to rank the 20 best bond trades on April 17 with maturities between 1 and 5 years.
  • The best trades were issues by United Technologies, Simon Property Group, Goldman Sachs, International Lease Finance Corporation, and Pepsico.

We last reviewed the best value bond trades in the 1 to 5 year maturity spectrum on March 18. Today, we update that analysis using trade data from April 17, a relatively light pre-holiday trading day. On April 17 in the U.S. bond market, there were 19,628 bond trades in 3,973 non-call fixed rate corporate bond issues representing $5,317,782,257 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 those questions for bonds with maturities of 1 to 5 years at the request of many investors. The answers to these questions are particularly important given the well-known inability of legacy credit ratings to match the accuracy of quantitative methods used in this series of notes. We ignore legacy ratings in this analysis for that reason.

Conclusion: The best-value non-call senior fixed rate bond trades with maturities of 1 to 5 years on April 17, 2014 were issues by these firms:

  1. UNITED TECHNOLOGIES CORPORATION (NYSE:UTX)
  2. SIMON PROPERTY GROUP LP (NYSE:SPG)
  3. GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP INC. (NYSE:GS), 7 issues
  4. INTERNATIONAL LEASE FINANCE CORPORATION (ILFC)
  5. PEPSICO INC. (NYSE:PEP)
  6. MCKESSON CORPORATION (NYSE:MCK)
  7. REYNOLDS AMERICAN INC. (NYSE:RAI)
  8. DISCOVERY COMMUNICATIONS LLC (NASDAQ:DISCA)
  9. THERMO FISHER SCIENTIFIC INC. (NYSE:TMO)
  10. KELLOGG CO. (NYSE:K)
  11. ROYAL BANK OF CANADA (NYSE:RY)
  12. BANK OF MONTREAL (NYSE:BMO)
  13. TORONTO DOMINION BANK (NYSE:TD)
  14. NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK LTD. (OTCPK:NABZY)

Best Value Long Maturity Bond Trades for April 17, 2014

In analyzing the best trades of the day, we used these criteria:

Bond type: Fixed rate

Callability: Non-call

Seniority: Senior debt

Trade Volume: $5 million or more

Maturity: 1 to 5 years

Ratings: Ignored

We ignored legacy ratings in making today's selection, but all but two of the trades meeting our criteria had an investment grade rating by the pre-Dodd Frank Act definition. We used the same criterion for "best" that we have used in recent analyses of bonds issued by Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ:CMCSA) (in both part 1 and part 2), General Electric Company (NYSE:GE), and Prudential Financial Inc. (NYSE:PRU). 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 (NYSE:C) bonds published December 9, 2013.

In all, there were 81 issues that met our criteria. The distribution of credit spreads is given in this histogram:

(click to enlarge)

The median credit spread was 0.469%, and the average credit spread was 0.665%.

The distribution of the credit spread to default probability ratio is given in this histogram:

(click to enlarge)

The median credit spread to default probability ratio was 8.42 and the average was 20.49. Note that the average is skewed by the very high credit spread to default probability ratios of the best credits. Note also that only ratios of 40 or below are plotted on the graph.

Here are the ranking results, listed from best to worst, with a United Technologies Corporation bond issue the winner at a reward to risk ratio of 255.9 times.

(click to enlarge)

CUSIPs

Many investors have requested that we provide CUSIPs as part of this chart. Redistribution of CUSIPs is currently prohibited by Kamakura Corporation's contract with the data vendor. We are working hard to change this so that we may make CUSIPs available in the future.

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.

Author's Note

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.

Source: The 20 Best Value Bond Trades With Maturities From 1 To 5 Years

Additional disclosure: Kamakura Corporation has business relationships with a number of organizations mentioned in this article.