On March 27 in the U.S. bond market, there were 22,926 bond trades in 4,396 non-call fixed rate corporate bond issues of 1,228 issuers representing $7.8 billion in underlying 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 year or more. 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 20 best-value non-call senior fixed rate bond trades with maturities of 1 year or more on March 27, 2015 were issues by these firms:
- TEVA PHARMACEUTICAL FINANCE COMPANY BV (NYSE:TEVA)
- ECOLAB INC. (NYSE:ECL)
- TRANSATLANTIC HOLDINGS INC. (NYSE:Y)
- GOLDMAN SACHS GROUP INC. (NYSE:GS), 2 issues
- SANOFI SA (NYSE:SNY)
- WESTPAC BANKING CORPORATION (NYSE:WBK)
- BAXTER INTERNATIONAL INC. (NYSE:BAX)
- NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK LTD (NEW YORK BRANCH) (OTCPK:NABZY)
- CANADIAN NATURAL RESOURCES LTD. (NYSE:CNQ)
- HCA INC. (NYSE:HCA)
- SUNCOR ENERGY INC. (NYSE:SU), 2 issues
- JARDEN CORPORATION (NYSE:JAH)
- AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND BANKING GROUP LTD (NEW YORK BRANCH) (OTCPK:ANEWF)
- JPMORGAN CHASE & CO. (NYSE:JPM)
- ROYAL BANK OF CANADA (NYSE:RY)
- EL PASO LLC (NYSE:KMI)
- ACTAVIS FUNDING SCS (NASDAQ:ACT)
- DISH DBS CORPORATION (NASDAQ:DISH)
Best Value Maturity Bond Trades for March 27, 2015
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 year or more
- Ratings: Ignored
- Survivor Option:Excluded
The most heavily traded bond issuers on March 27, 2015 are listed here:
The reason we do this "best value" analysis is because the relationship between credit spreads and matched maturity default probabilities is not a consistent one, as one can see in this graph:
We ignored legacy ratings in making today's selection, but all but 32 of the 274 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), AIG (NYSE:AIG), AT&T (NYSE:T) and IBM (NYSE:IBM). 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.
The distribution of credit spreads is given in this histogram:
The median credit spread was 1.222%, and the average credit spread was 1.903%.
The distribution of the credit spread to default probability ratio is given in this histogram:
The median credit spread to default probability ratio was 8.223 and the average was 11.821. 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 the Teva Pharmaceutical Finance Company BV 2.4% bonds due November 10, 2016 the winner at a ratio of over 100 times.
Many investors have requested that we provide CUSIPs as part of this chart. Redistribution of CUSIPs is currently illegal under 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. This article neatly summarizes which institutions have restricted availability of CUSIPs in order to maximize their profits as a monopoly supplier of the data. Thanks to FINRA, the CUSIPs have been put into the public domain for free via this FINRA-affiliated website.
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, 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: The author has no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.
The author wrote this article themselves, and it expresses their own opinions. The author is not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). The author has no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.
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