Junk bond fever building as high grade trails

Default Swaps

“The Fed has successfully dampened volatility over the past few weeks,” Adam Richmond, a credit strategist at Morgan Stanley in New York, said in a telephone interview. “What has changed? Probably not much.”

Elsewhere in credit markets, the cost of protecting corporate debt from default in the U.S. increased, with the Markit CDX North American Investment Grade Index, which investors use to hedge against losses or to speculate on creditworthiness, climbing 2 basis points to a mid-price of 76.3 basis points as of 12:21 p.m. in New York, according to prices compiled by Bloomberg.

The measure typically rises as investor confidence deteriorates and falls as it improves. Credit-default swaps pay the buyer face value if a borrower fails to meet its obligations, less the value of the defaulted debt. A basis point equals $1,000 annually on a contract protecting $10 million of debt.

Morgan Stanley

The U.S. two-year interest-rate swap spread, a measure of debt market stress, rose 0.2 basis point to 16.2 basis points as of 12:22 p.m. in New York. The gauge widens when investors seek the perceived safety of government securities and narrows when they favor assets such as company debentures.

Bonds of Morgan Stanley are the most actively traded dollar-denominated corporate securities by dealers today, accounting for 5% of the volume of dealer trades of $1 million or more as of 12:23 p.m. in New York, according to Trace, the bond-price reporting system of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Speculative-grade funds globally faced their biggest weekly outflow on record in the week ended June 26 with $6.8 billion of withdrawals, according to EPFR in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yields on 10-year Treasuries soared to 2.74% on July 5, the highest since August 2011.

When Bernanke said on July 17 that the Fed’s asset purchases aren’t on a “preset course,” the market retraced some of the declines. “We’re going to be responding to the data,” Bernanke said in testimony before the House Financial Services Committee.

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