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Summary

  • On June 13, there were 22,817 bond trades in 4,245 non-call fixed rate corporate bond issues representing $7 billion in principal in the U.S. market.
  • We rank the most heavily traded bond issues by the reward to risk ratio, defined as the ratio of credit spread to matched-maturity default probability.
  • Wellpoint, Royal Dutch Shell and CIBC lead the 30 best value bond trade ranking.

Today we rank the best value fixed rate senior corporate bond trades with daily trading volume of at least $5 million and maturities of 1 to 5 years or longer on June 13, 2014. On June 13 in the U.S. bond market, there were 22,817 bond trades in 4,245 non-call fixed rate corporate bond issues representing $6,988,130,659 in notional principal. Which 30 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.

Conclusion: We find the best-value non-call senior fixed rate 1 to 5 year maturity bond trades on June 13, 2014, were issues by these firms:

WELLPOINT INC. (NYSE:WLP)

SHELL INTERNATIONAL FINANCE BV (NYSE:RDS.A) (NYSE:RDS.B)

CANADIAN IMPERIAL BANK OF COMMERCE (NYSE:CM)

ROYAL BANK OF CANADA (NYSE:RY), 4 issues

MCKESSON CORPORATION (NYSE:MCK), 2 issues

AMERICAN EXPRESS CENTURION BANK (NYSE:AXP)

GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP INC. (NYSE:GS), 3 issues

WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION (NYSE:WBK)

AMERICAN EXPRESS CO. , 3 issues

ABBVIE INC. (NYSE:ABBV)

BANK OF NOVA SCOTIA (NYSE:BNS), 2 issues

BERKSHIRE HATHAWAY FINANCE CORPORATION (NYSE:BRK.B), 3 issues

KELLOGG CO. (NYSE:K)

NOBLE GROUP LTD. (OTCPK:NOBGF)

LABORATORY CORPORATION OF AMERICA HOLDINGS (NYSE:LH)

L-3 COMMUNICATIONS CORPORATION (NYSE:LLL)

ARES CAPITAL CORPORATION (NASDAQ:ARCC)

JPMORGAN CHASE & CO. (NYSE:JPM)

SEMPRA ENERGY (NYSE:SRE)

Best Value 1 to 5 Year Bond Trades for June 13, 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 seven of the 151 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 Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Kinder Morgan Energy Partners LP (KMP) and Oracle (NYSE:ORCL). 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 2010 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 151 issues that met our criteria. The distribution of credit spreads is given in this histogram:

(click to enlarge)

The median credit spread was 0.523% and the average credit spread was 0.894%. 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 7.684 and the average was 15.546.

Here are the ranking results, listed from best to worst, with an Wellpoint Inc. bond issue the winner at a reward to risk ratio of 161 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. In the meantime, CUSIPs for major issuers can be found easily with an internet search on web pages like this one from the New York Stock Exchange.

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 10 years, we assume that the 10-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.

Editor's Note: This article discusses one or more securities that do not trade on a major exchange. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.

Source: Wellpoint, Royal Dutch Shell And CIBC Lead The 30 Best Value Bond Trades With Maturities Of 1 To 5 Years