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Market weekly – Convertible bonds: multi-functional and flexible capital (read or listen)

Convertible bonds are hybrid instruments combining bond and equity characteristics. As a result, they offer some equity upside, but with bond-like protection on the downside. If we are at the start of a cycle of rising interest rates, the option investors

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Convertible bonds are hybrid instruments combining bond and equity characteristics. As a result, they offer some equity upside, but with bond-like protection on the downside. If we are at the start of a cycle of rising interest rates, the option investors in these nominal assets (bonds) hold to convert to real assets (equities) could prove invaluable.  

Skander Chabbi, head of the global convertible team, explains why this flexible form of capital is particularly suited to the current investment environment

Read the article or listen to the podcast with lead portfolio manager Skander Chabbi for the convertible bond strategy

With many financial markets focused on the prospect of rising interest rates and leading economies maybe on the brink of stagflation, it is timely to note that the duration of convertible bonds – their interest-rate sensitivity – is limited.

Unlike conventional bonds, convertibles have sources of return beyond interest rates. They include credit spreads, equity prices, and market volatility.

So in a rising rate environment, we expect equity market trends and credit to be the main drivers of performance. A gradual rise of market volatility is positive for convertible bonds. A convertible bond combines a bond and a call option (see exhibit 1). This option to buy the issuer’s stock typically increases in value when the volatility of the underlying stock rises.

Source: BNP Paribas Asset Management, September 2021

This combination provides investors with what we believe is an attractive total return profile with limited downside at times when the equity market does not perform. That is when the bond-like characteristics kick in – aspects such as the fixed coupon and the fact the bond is typically redeemed at par.

So, in the sharp and broad market downturn in February-March 2020, when the extent of the pandemic and the need for strict containment measures became apparent, the losses for convertibles amounted to only about a third of the downside seen in equity and bond markets.

More generally, when equities collapse, the performance of convertible bonds becomes more bond-like. So, as markets recovered from the slump, convertibles were quick to move in synch.

Convertible bonds – A cheap (re)financing tool

What we saw some 18 months ago was that many companies turned to convertible bonds to shore up their balance sheets. The terms for issuing equity would have been too onerous. The result was a virtuous circle – convertibles issuance improved credit ratings and narrowed credit spreads; this helped support the prices of the issuer’s equity; higher stock prices added to the attractiveness of the call options, which helped lift the convertible bonds.

The fact that stock prices were so depressed when this wave of refinancing began only added to the appeal of convertibles for both issuers and investors. Favourable interest rates were a further attraction of using convertible bonds as a cheap refinancing instrument. The embedded equity call option allows the issuer to lower the coupon so that it is cheaper to issue a convertible than a regular corporate bond.

In fact, we have even seen zero coupon convertibles being issued. Examples would include a US carmaker and a French utility, both with investment-grade credit ratings. High-yield issuers – with lower ratings – could be paying coupons of 1.25% or 1.50%. Examples of issuers would be a US airline, a US web and internet services company and an Indian telecommunications company.

To underscore the breadth of this segment further, with a market size of some USD 600 billion, recent issuers have included high-growth companies in the US tech and healthcare sector. We see this as a natural area for convertible bonds given the upside potential for their shares. In Europe, fast growers in the online delivery segment have issued convertibles, although I should point out that this area is now under pressure from rising costs and greater competition.

Overall, we believe there is a wide range of reasons for companies to issue convertibles.

A place for convertibles in many portfolios

Equally, we believe in the suitability of convertibles for many investors.

Taking the perspective of an equity portfolio manager who now faces high valuations in many markets and toppish index levels, convertible bonds can act as an alternative for a percentage of the allocation. To have some protection from equity market downside, but also keep a measure of equity exposure, they could switch into convertibles when they believe stocks have reached a high.

For fixed income managers who in the face of rising rates might want to limit their interest rate exposure, convertible bonds can be a way to reduce the duration of the portfolio given the lower interest rate sensitivity of convertibles relative to straight corporate bonds.

Looking at valuations, we believe convertible bonds are not expensive in the context of rising rates, that is, compared to the straight debt market. Furthermore, credit spreads relative to regular corporate bonds are still comparatively large, which should provide a cushion in a down market. In this respect, convertibles are adequately priced, in our view. 

Overall, we expect a similar return from convertibles in 2022 to that of equities, which we estimate to be in the 5% plus range, with a much lower volatility in the convertible bond market.

We believe the wider appeal of this segment is underscored by the broad range of investors invested in it. Investors eyeing the equity-like characteristics include hedge funds and multi-strategy funds; those attracted by the bond-like aspects include credit investors such as asset managers, insurance companies, savings banks and pension funds. Even central banks have been buying convertibles.

To sum up, we see a place for convertible bonds in equity, multi-asset and even fixed income portfolios.


Any views expressed here are those of the author as of the date of publication, are based on available information, and are subject to change without notice. Individual portfolio management teams may hold different views and may take different investment decisions for different clients. This document does not constitute investment advice.

The value of investments and the income they generate may go down as well as up and it is possible that investors will not recover their initial outlay. Past performance is no guarantee for future returns. 

Investing in emerging markets, or specialised or restricted sectors is likely to be subject to a higher than average volatility due to a high degree of concentration, greater uncertainty because less information is available, there is less liquidity, or due to greater sensitivity to changes in market conditions (social, political and economic conditions).  

Some emerging markets offer less security than the majority of international developed markets. For this reason, services for portfolio transactions, liquidation and conservation on behalf of funds invested in emerging markets may carry greater risk.

Writen by Skander Chabbi. The post Market weekly – Convertible bonds: multi-functional and flexible capital (read or listen) appeared first on Investors' Corner - The official blog of BNP Paribas Asset Management, the sustainable investor for a changing world.

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Spread & Containment

Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

President Biden’s job approval rating has fallen the most since the start of his term than any other president since World War II. 

A new Gallup poll was…

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Biden Suffers Worst Approval Ratings Plunge Of Any President Since World War II 

President Biden's job approval rating has fallen the most since the start of his term than any other president since World War II. 

A new Gallup poll was released Friday, polling Americans between Oct. 1-19 shows Biden's approval rating plunged from 56% in Q1 to 44.7% in Q3, a whopping 11.3 percentage points that any president hasn't seen in over 75 years. 

"Biden began his term with relatively solid approval ratings, ranging between 54% and 57% from January through June. His approval dropped to 50% in July and 49% in August as coronavirus infections surged in the U.S. The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in late August, which included the deaths of more than a dozen U.S. military personnel in a terrorist attack at the Kabul airport, was likely the reason Biden's September job approval rating fell further to 43%," Gallup said. 

We noted in June that Gallup data showed Biden's "honeymoon period" was over and said if the president cannot "tame inflation" could result in further rating declines. And, oh boy, were we right...

Biden also faces an increasing disillusionment among Americans that he can't fix the border crisis, snarled supply chains, high gas prices, soaring inflation, consumer goods shortages, and the coronavirus pandemic, among a whole list of other things. 

His ratings suggest no improvement in Democrat support, declining support among Independents, and only 4% of Republicans polled approve of the job he's done - that figure is likely to go to zero if things don't turn around for the president. 

The 88% partisan gap in job approval is extraordinarily high considering Biden campaigned on "unity." During his inauguration, he said: 

"We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury. No progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward."

While Democrats are desperately trying to salvage their $3.5 trillion Build Back Better infrastructure plan, Americans are increasingly becoming confused about what exactly that means and how that will affect them. Repbulicans have requested the president to fix broken supply chain before more social spending. 

Souring support suggests Democrats could be on track to lose big in next year's midterms. 

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/23/2021 - 14:00

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Government

Fauci Funded ‘Cruel’ Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies ‘Eat Them Alive’; Vocal Cords Severed

Fauci Funded ‘Cruel’ Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies ‘Eat Them Alive’; Vocal Cords Severed

While recent attention has been focused on Dr. Anthony Fauci’s National Institutes of Health funding the genetic manipulation of bat coronaviruses..

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Fauci Funded 'Cruel' Puppy Experiments Where Sand Flies 'Eat Them Alive'; Vocal Cords Severed

While recent attention has been focused on Dr. Anthony Fauci's National Institutes of Health funding the genetic manipulation of bat coronaviruses in the same town as the bat coronavirus pandemic emerged, a bipartisan group of lawmakers have demanded answers over 'sick' experiments on drugged puppies, according to The Hill.

"Our investigators show that Fauci’s NIH division shipped part of a $375,800 grant to a lab in Tunisia to drug beagles and lock their heads in mesh cages filled with hungry sand flies so that the insects could eat them alive," writes nonprofit organization the White Coat Waste Project. "They also locked beagles alone in cages in the desert overnight for nine consecutive nights to use them as bait to attract infectious sand flies."

As The Hill's Christian Spencer writes:

The White Coat Waste Project, the nonprofit organization that first pointed out that U.S. taxpayers were being used to fund the controversial Wuhan Institute of Virology, have now turned its sights on Anthony Fauci on another animal-testing-related matter — infecting dozens of beagles with disease-causing parasites to test an experimental drug on them.

House members, most of whom are Republicans, want Fauci to explain himself in response to allegations brought on by the White Coat Waste Project that involve drugging puppies.

According to the White Coat Waste Project, the Food and Drug Administration does not require drugs to be tested on dogs, so the group is asking why the need for such testing. 

White Coat Waste claims that 44 beagle puppies were used in a Tunisia, North Africa, laboratory, and some of the dogs had their vocal cords removed, allegedly so scientists could work without incessant barking. -The Hill

The concerned lawmakers are led by Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC), who said in a letter to the NIH that cordectomies are "cruel" and a "reprehensible misuse of taxpayer funds." Mace is joined by reps Cindy Axne (D-Iowa), Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Rick Crawford (R-Ark.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Scott Franklin (R-Fla.), Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), Carlos Gimenez (R-Fla.), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Fred Keller (R-Pa.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Brian Mast (R-Fla.), Scott Perry (R-Pa.), Bill Posey (R-Fla.), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), Maria E. Salazar (R-Fla.), Terri Sewell (D-Ala.), Daniel Webster (R-Fla.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) via The Hill.

How will Fauci spin this?

Tyler Durden Sat, 10/23/2021 - 15:00

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Government

COVID-19 pandemic shifted patient attitudes about colorectal cancer screening

Key takeaways Credit: American College of Surgeons Key takeaways A survey of adults eligible for colorectal cancer screening patterns found a preference for at-home fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) versus colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey.

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Key takeaways

Credit: American College of Surgeons

Key takeaways

  • A survey of adults eligible for colorectal cancer screening patterns found a preference for at-home fecal occult blood testing (FOBT) versus colonoscopy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Survey respondents reported less use of colonoscopy during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic levels, with factors related to both COVID-19 infection concerns and the financial strain of having copays.
  • FOBT shows potential as an alternative to screening colonoscopy to improve access to colorectal cancer screening in the context of COVID-19 safety and economic concerns.

CHICAGO: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on patients’ willingness to keep appointments for non-COVID-19 illnesses has been well documented, but a team of researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University report that for people hesitant to come into the hospital or an outpatient center to get a colonoscopy, home-administered fecal occult blood tests (FOBT) may provide a useful workaround tool. About 30 percent more survey respondents completed home-based test during the pandemic than before.

Kristine Kenning, MD, MS, presented findings from a survey of adults age-eligible for screening at the virtual American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress 2021. “The key message from our findings is that barriers to screening have increased during the pandemic, and we have to find a way to work with the community to increase those rates,” said Dr. Kenning, chief general surgery resident at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, Richmond. “Our study found that people are compliant with, and willing to do, home-based fecal occult blood testing. This test provides a very important way for us to increase screening for colorectal cancer.”

The American College of Gastroenterology clinical guidelines recommend colonoscopy for colorectal cancer evaluation and following a positive FOBT with a colonoscopy.1 About 148,000 cases of colorectal cancers are newly diagnosed in the United States each year, the American Cancer Society reports, and they account for 53,000 deaths.2

About the survey

The cross-sectional survey involved 765 people age 50 years and older. Dr. Kenning and colleagues found that their respondents reported a higher completion of stool tests pre-COVID than the American Cancer Society reported,2 32 percent vs. 11 percent. During the pandemic, 50 percent of respondents said they completed the FOBT. By contrast, 44 percent of survey respondents who said they had colon screening during the pandemic underwent a colonoscopy. This practice appears to demonstrate substitution of stool-based testing for colonoscopy, Dr. Kenning noted. 

“Our study looked at attitudes toward colorectal cancer screening and how they were impacted during the pandemic, both related to concerns about the pandemic as well as to economic impacts,” senior author Emily B. Rivet, MD, MBA, FACS, said. “What we learned is that fecal occult blood testing was seen by patients as a viable alternative to conventional screening colonoscopy.” Dr. Rivet is an associate professor in the department of surgery, division of colorectal surgery, and an affiliated professor of internal medicine at VCU School of Medicine.

Patient concerns about copays

Notably, a greater percentage of respondents indicated being unemployed during the pandemic than the year prior: 7.4 vs. 2.6 percent. In addition, 41 percent of respondents expressed concerns about copays; 57.6 percent of those respondents said this was a factor for delaying screening. Dr. Kenning noted that she is working with Carrie Miller, PhD, MPH, the principal investigator of the larger survey, on a follow-up assessment of the pandemic-related impact on attitudes toward colorectal cancer screening. Dr. Miller is post-doctoral fellow with VCU’s department of health behavior and policy.

Other screening delays

Copays were not the only deterrent to getting scheduled colorectal screenings during the pandemic, the study found. Almost two-thirds of respondents—65.9 percent—confirmed concerns about COVID-19 exposure when scheduling colonoscopies; and 59 percent of them said this caused them to delay their screening. 

To address those concerns, respondents endorsed that being offered protective equipment (gloves and masks), visits to smaller offices, or weekend screening appointments would increase their likelihood of following through with the colonoscopy; respectively, 30.7 percent for each of the two former factors and 19.7 percent for weekend screening. However, 48.1 percent of respondents said they were willing to do an at-home FOBT as an alternative to colonoscopy, among whom 93 percent indicated they would be willing to undergo a follow-up colonoscopy if the FOBT was positive. 

Lessons learned from the pandemic

“Even pre-pandemic, the rates for colorectal screening in the United States were very far from 100 percent, so I think the lessons that we are learning from this pandemic and working with patients to find alternatives to what the conventional approaches have been in the past are going to be applicable to care moving forward. This approach applies even if we do eventually enter a post-pandemic state, which is, of course, what we are all hoping for,” Dr. Rivet said.

Dr. Kenning said the survey results show that there is still much work to do to improve colorectal screening. “Colorectal cancer screening has decreased significantly during the pandemic and still hasn’t improved to the rate that it was before,” Dr. Kenning said. “Making sure that we’re offering all of the options to patients is very important so that, whatever form of screening they’re comfortable with, they’ll start down that pathway in order to get the screening they need.”

The survey results also underscore the need to tailor colorectal cancer screening to each patient’s concerns and needs, Dr. Rivet said. “It’s important to have a conversation about all of these different alternatives and what the different positives and negatives are,” she said.

Study coauthors are Dr. Miller and Bernard F. Fuemmeler, PhD, MPH, also with the department of health behavior and policy at VCU; and Jaime L. Bohl, MD, FACS, with the department of surgery at VCU.

“FACS” designates that a surgeon is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons.

The study authors have no relevant financial relationships to disclose. The survey was funded as part of a larger survey led by Dr. Miller on colorectal cancer and funded, in part, through support of an institutional training grant awarded by the National Cancer Institute (T32CA093423).

Citation: Kenning K. et al, COVID-19 Pandemic Impact on Colorectal Cancer Screening. Scientific Forum Presentation. American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress 2021.

______________ 

  1. Shaukat A, Kahi C, Burke CA, Rabeneck L, Sauer BG, Rex DK. ACG Clinical Guidelines: Colorectal Cancer Screening 2021. Amerc J Gastroenterol. 2021;116(3):458-479. doi: 10.14309/ajg.0000000000001122
  2. American Cancer Society. Colorectal Cancer Facts & Figures 2020-2022. Atlanta: American Cancer Society; 2020:22. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/content/dam/cancer-org/research/cancer-facts-and-statistics/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures/colorectal-cancer-facts-and-figures-2020-2022.pdf 

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About the American College of Surgeons
The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and improve the quality of care for all surgical patients. The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 84,000 members and is the largest organization of surgeons in the world. For more information, visit www.facs.org.


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