Categories
Fixed Income
Global corporate bonds 2022 outlook
Peter Becker
Investment Director
KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • The balance of risks for the global corporate bond market continues to be finely poised.
  • Rich valuations, high inflation and potentially slowing global growth need to be balanced against improving credit fundamentals, still broadly supportive technicals and continued but potentially shrinking liquidity provision by central banks.
  • Now is not the time for complacency; instead taking a selective approach with a cautious overall credit risk stance is key.
  • ESG considerations are set to become more relevant and will likely impact valuations.

Introduction


Although global investment grade corporate bonds posted negative total returns in 2021, in large part due to rising government bond yields, excess returns were positive1. 2021 also proved to be a year characterised by low spread volatility1 supported by strong global growth and accommodative monetary and fiscal policies, although this was peppered by modest bouts of volatility linked to inflation fears and the pandemic.


As we enter 2022, investor concern has shifted towards a litany of macroeconomic concerns that could hurt credit quality and market performance. Following the initial burst of activity experienced in 2021 as economies came out of lockdowns, the pace of global growth is now slowing. Inflation has been at the forefront of investor concerns leading to worries about how much monetary policy tightening is in store from major central banks. COVID-19 also remains a risk, not least with the emergence of the new Omicron variant, which has already led to a resurgence of restrictions in many countries. There are, however, still reasons to be optimistic. While valuations are stretched leaving little room for error, improving issuer credit fundamentals and investor demand for yield may help to keep the market supported. However, given an increasingly asymmetric risk/return profile now is the time to be selective.


Valuations are stretched, but improving fundamentals and a still positive technical backdrop should help


Tight spreads warrant caution, but increasing volatility may bring opportunities


Although spreads widened towards the end of last year, most significantly in November, they recovered part of that widening in December. More importantly, spreads remain at the tight end of their historical range leaving little room for error. Even a modest widening in spreads could be enough to wipe out a year’s worth of total returns. In the current environment, with limited scope for further spread compression, an overall cautious credit stance limiting downside risks could be considered prudent.


This year could see a gradual rebuilding of market risk premium that would likely realign spreads with the reality of a maturing cycle. Gradual withdrawal of monetary stimulus and a lower risk appetite could turn incrementally less supportive as the cycle continues to mature. Interest rate volatility and further COVID-19 related worries could also add to credit market volatility and drive spreads wider, bringing potential opportunities to add on weakness as fundamentals remain solid.


Global investment grade spreads are at the lower end of their historical range

Past results are not a guarantee of future results.

Data as at 14 December 2021. Index is the Bloomberg Global Aggregate Corporate Index. Index inception date is 29 September 2000, spread data is available from 17 September 2002. IG: investment grade, bps: basis points. Source: Bloomberg


 


Past results are not a guarantee of future results.

1. As at 31 December 2021 in US dollar terms as measured by the Bloomberg Global AggregatebCorporate Index. Excess returns are the index returns in excess of duration-matched treasury returns. Source: Bloomberg


 


Risk factors you should consider before investing:

  • This material is not intended to provide investment advice or be considered a personal recommendation.
  • The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment.
  • Past results are not a guide to future results.
  • If the currency in which you invest strengthens against the currency in which the underlying investments of the fund are made, the value of your investment will decrease. Currency hedging seeks to limit this, but there is no guarantee that hedging will be totally successful.
  • Depending on the strategy, risks may be associated with investing in fixed income, emerging markets and/or high-yield securities; emerging markets are volatile and may suffer from liquidity problems.


Peter Becker is an investment director at Capital Group. He has 25 years of industry experience and has been with Capital Group for three years. He holds a master's degree from The Ingolstadt School of Management. He also holds the Chartered Financial Analyst® designation. Peter is based in London.


RELATED INSIGHTS

Past results are not a guarantee of future results. The value of investments and income from them can go down as well as up and you may lose some or all of your initial investment. This information is not intended to provide investment, tax or other advice, or to be a solicitation to buy or sell any securities.

Statements attributed to an individual represent the opinions of that individual as of the date published and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capital Group or its affiliates. All information is as at the date indicated unless otherwise stated. Some information may have been obtained from third parties, and as such the reliability of that information is not guaranteed.