Monday, September 23, 2013

Make Mine a Lite, Please

Cov-lite lending is back, and setting records, according to Reuters:
Huge demand for leveraged loans from billions of dollars flowing into U.S. loan funds pushed covenant-lite loan volume to a record $188.7 billion, far surpassing the record of 2007, and still going strong.
Demand for yield by investors is so high now that cov-lite loans are close to becoming the standard, according to the report; covenants in a debt deal are now viewed as a sign that the borrower is risky. Also, credit quality is going down:
As lending to lower-rated companies has increased generally, more of them are also opting for covenant-lite financings.That trend is evident particularly in the B3 ratings category. Around 18 percent of covenant-lite loans are for B3 rated companies so far this year, versus 8 percent in 2012 and 3.7 percent in 2011.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Quote of the Day

As one analyst observed, it is curious when investors are forced to purchase shares for yield and bonds for capital gains.
This gem of a quote is courtesy of the brilliant Satyajit Das, in the FT (registration required). I still think sometimes of an interview he gave in September, 2007, the first four paragraphs of which are about as prescient as a pre-Lehman, pre-Bear-Stearns interview could have been.

Friday, September 13, 2013

More Wisdom from Tett

Gillian Tett has written yet another great column for the Financial Times, summarizing what should have changed, but has not, since the darkest days of the 2008 crisis. Her main points are:

1. The big banks got bigger
2. Shadow banking grew
3. Investors believe in central banks more, not less
4. The rich got richer
5. There have been few relevant criminal convictions
6. Fannie and Freddie Mac are still in business

I recommend the whole thing (registration may be required).

Tett's depth and prescience are a marvel. In January of 2007, too, she wrote a great piece (registration, again). She compared the financial system at that time to "candy floss":
...what worries some policy-makers is that structured finance is often so opaque that dangerous concentrations of credit risk could develop in the system - unseen until a shock. Banks, for example, now seem to be buying each others' securitised bonds through their investment arms, which could mean they are acquiring risk through the back door even as they appear to be shedding it in their published accounts. 
That makes it harder to assess overall leverage in the economy. But it could also make it difficult for central banks to control credit conditions with old-fashioned monetary tools.
 I am a huge fan of hers.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

News Flash: Bubbles Exist

It is news when a central banker admits that bubbles exist.

But it happened earlier this week, when John Williams, who heads the the San Francisco branch of the Federal Reserve System, gave a very good speech. An excerpt:
The lesson from history is clear: asset price bubbles and crashes are here to stay. They appear to be a consequence of human nature. And the events of the past decade demonstrate the enormous human costs of asset price bubbles and crashes. 
To understand the past and avoid a recurrence of the devastating events we lived through so recently, we need to acknowledge that investors and financial markets do not behave the way rational asset price theory implies. We need to incorporate these channels into the models we use for forecasting, risk analysis, and policy evaluation. This opens up a world where actions, including regulatory and monetary policy measures, may have unintended consequences—such as excessive optimism, risk taking, and the formation of bubbles—that are assumed away in standard rational models.
If everyone acted rationally, independently, and with perfect information, then, yes, bubbles would be impossible. But guess what? They don't.