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Why investor appetite for sustainability-linked bonds is growing

Despite representing a relatively small proportion of sustainable bond issuance today, sustainability-linked bonds are rapidly becoming more popular. Xuan Sheng Ou Yong looks at these performance-linked securities and their advantages and disadvantages…

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Despite representing a relatively small proportion of sustainable bond issuance today, sustainability-linked bonds are rapidly becoming more popular. Xuan Sheng Ou Yong looks at these performance-linked securities and their advantages and disadvantages.

Climate action is high on everyone’s agenda, and as such, there is a lot of focus on green bonds. The Covid-19 pandemic has also shone a light on social bonds – securities designed to fund measures aimed at addressing social issues including the impact of the coronavirus. Sustainability bonds, those that include both green and social use of proceeds, are also in vogue.

There is, however, another member of this increasingly diverse club – sustainability-linked bonds (SLBs). What are they, and why is their popularity growing?

BOND TYPEDescription
Green bonds Use of proceeds linked to environmental projects (e.g. renewable energy installations)
Social bonds Use of proceeds linked to social
projects
Sustainability bonds Use of proceeds linked to the Sustainable Development Goals
(SDGs)
Transition bonds Use of proceeds linked to projects which are not generally considered sufficiently green, but still contribute to CO2 avoidance
Sustainability-linked bonds Coupon payment is linked to the sustainability performance of the issuer (e.g., lower greenhouse gas emissions)
Environmental or social impact bonds Coupon payment is linked to a specific impact objective (e.g., prison recidivism rate; flooding incidence)

Source: BNP Paribas Asset Management, July 2021

The growth of thematic bonds

Demand from investors for financial products with a sustainability theme has been reshaping capital markets. One of the consequences has been significant growth in the sustainable use of proceeds bonds and sustainability-linked bonds.

According to the Environmental Finance Bond Database, thematic bond issuance – incorporating green, social, sustainable and sustainability-linked bonds – passed USD 600 billion in 2020, nearly doubling 2019’s USD 326 billion. Furthermore, the amount of thematic bonds issued in Q1 2021 was double that of Q1 2020.

Specifically, SLBs look to be rapidly growing in popularity, with some estimates indicating that in the first five months of 2021, SLB sales increased by 7 000% (albeit from a small base).

How do SLBs differ from other sustainable bonds?

With sustainable use of proceeds bonds, the proceeds are used exclusively to fund projects with environmental and/or social benefits.

In comparison, SLBs are usually issued as general obligation bonds with contractual links to the achievement of a sustainability target or targets by the issuer. Usually, an issuer agrees to pay a higher coupon to the investor if they fail to achieve a linked sustainability target.

Italian energy company Enel, for example, recently raised USD 3.96 billion through SLBs. Under the deal, if its GHG emissions exceed a certain level by a set deadline, the coupons increase by 25bp. UK retailer Tesco has issued a bond with payments contingent on improvements in emissions, renewable energy use and food waste.

Benefits and drawbacks of SLBs

Compared with green bonds, the issuer of a SLB can use the proceeds for general purposes and is not required to track the projects funded by the issuance. This provides the issuer the freedom to choose how it intends to achieve its sustainability targets.

An SLB allows issuers to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, even if they don’t currently have dedicated green or social projects planned. An SLB focuses on a company’s future trajectory and the achievement of more sustainable outcomes.

Do SLB investors not benefit from higher coupons and thus a higher running yield if an issuer fails to meet sustainability targets? Yes, but this view can be shortsighted. If a firm fails to meet its targets, it could lead to reputation damage that may represent a greater credit risk for investors.

What about the relative opacity of SLBs? Since SLBs have no restrictions on how capital will be spent, investors do not have a clear idea of the impact they will have. Some investors will prefer use of proceeds sustainable bonds since they clearly support sustainable projects.

The flexible nature of SLBs can make them prone to the risk of greenwashing. For instance, some issuances have been tied to KPIs that are clearly readily achievable. Investors should thoroughly check the KPIs to ensure they are sufficiently ambitious.

In addition, since SLBs are relatively new, and internationally agreed principles do not prescribe any standardised metrics to be linked in SLBs, issuers may select metrics that are unique to their situation. This makes it difficult for external stakeholders to compare issuers and issuances.

The future for SLBs

The unpredictable nature of SLB coupons has not made them popular with some regulators. The European Banking Authority has said banks should not use SLBs to meet capital requirements. If sustainability targets are not met, banks would face redemptions or weakened credit ratings.

At the same time, the ECB, after previously not accepting SLBs as collateral, has started to do so, provided the coupons link to a performance target related to the EU’s taxonomy or the UN’s SDGs.

Surveys have indicated that around two thirds of financial advisers believe SLBs are most likely to meet the growing demand for ESG-linked fixed income assets. S&P Global Ratings anticipates the global issuance of sustainability-linked debt instruments to surpass USD 200 billion in 2021.

Despite the impressive recent growth, it is important to note that in May, SLB issuance was just 25% of that of green bonds. For SLBs to become leading investment products in the sustainable bond space, measures are needed to prevent greenwashing and ensure clarity on how capital is allocated. Standardisation of the KPIs to facilitate performance comparability across issuers is also key.


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. The views expressed in this podcast do not in any way 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 Xuan Sheng Ou Yong. The post Why investor appetite for sustainability-linked bonds is growing 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

Mish’s Daily: Step Back to the Monthly Chart on Transportation

Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business’s Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.What…

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Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business's Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.

What makes this moving average so important right now is that three of the Economic Modern Family members are testing it. The three members, Granddad Russell 2000 (IWM), Grandma Retail (XRT) and Transportation (IYT), well deserve their status as what Stanley Druckenmiller calls the "inside" of the U.S. economy. In fact, the components of the modern family were put together before we heard Druckenmiller's viewpoint. We have observed how predictive they all are in helping us see in advance the next big market direction. Hence, these "inside" indicators -- right now -- are all sitting just above a 6–7-year business cycle low.

For the purposes of this daily and because we have featured this sector a lot lately, the chart of IYT is a perfect example of this moving average and what to watch for. Except for the brief blip in 2011 when the government shut down, and then again during the pandemic, IYT has sat above the dark blue line for 11 years. Currently, that line sits at the 195 area. The same is true with IWM and XRT, both marginally holding their monthly MAs.

So, watch IYT to either hold, and begin a rally possibly back closer to 220, or for IYT to fail 195, in which case we see the whole market selling off further.

To note, the other family members, such as Sister Semiconductors (SMH) and Prodigal Son Regional Banks (KRE) are still sitting well above the monthly MA. Big Brother Biotechnology (IBB), however, is now trading below it. And not in the family, but still notable, is the REIT sector (IYR), also sitting below it. SPY has the same MA, only that one sits at 310 (a long way off).

Incidentally, junk bonds broke down under this moving average in November 2021. The market has been slow to take junk bond's hint.

For more information on how to invest profitably in sectors like biotech, please reach out to Rob Quinn, our Chief Strategy Consultant, by clicking here.

Mish's Upcoming Seminars

ChartCon 2022: October 7-8th, Seattle (FULLY VIRTUAL EVENT). Join me and 16 other elite market experts for live trading rooms, fireside chats, and panel discussions. Learn more here.

The Money Show: Join me and many wonderful speakers at the Money Show in Orlando, beginning October 30th running thru November 1st; spend Halloween with us!

Get your copy of Plant Your Money Tree: A Guide to Growing Your Wealth and a special bonus here.


Follow Mish on Twitter @marketminute for stock picks and more. Follow Mish on Instagram (mishschneider) for daily morning videos. To see updated media clips, click here.

Mish in the Media

A business cycle is about 6-7 years - where are the indices now and what should you watch for? Mish discusses this question in this appearance on Fox's Making Money with Charles Payne.


ETF Summary

  • S&P 500 (SPY): Testing the previous low; 362 support, 370 resistance.
  • Russell 2000 (IWM): Broke the June low of 165.18; 162 support, 170 resistance.
  • Dow (DIA): Broke June low -289 support, 298 resistance.
  • Nasdaq (QQQ): Testing the June low;269 support, 280 resistance.
  • KRE (Regional Banks): Relative outperformer; 57 support, 61 resistance.
  • SMH (Semiconductors): 187 support, 194 resistance.
  • IYT (Transportation): 196 support, 200 resistance.
  • IBB (Biotechnology): 112 support, 118 resistance.
  • XRT (Retail): 55 support, 60 resistance.


Mish Schneider

MarketGauge.com

Director of Trading Research and Education

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Bonds

Druckenmiller: “We Are In Deep Trouble… I Don’t Rule Out Something Really Bad”

Druckenmiller: "We Are In Deep Trouble… I Don’t Rule Out Something Really Bad"

For once, billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller did…

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Druckenmiller: "We Are In Deep Trouble... I Don't Rule Out Something Really Bad"

For once, billionaire investor Stanley Druckenmiller did not say anything even remotely controversial when he echoed what we (and Morgan Stanley) have been warning for a long time, and said the Fed's attempt to quickly unwind the excesses it itself built up over the past 13 years with its ultra easy monetary policy will end in tears for the U.S. economy.

“Our central case is a hard landing by the end of ’23,” Druckenmiller said at CNBC’s Delivering Alpha Investor Summit in New York City Wednesday. “I would be stunned if we don’t have recession in ’23. I don’t know the timing but certainly by the end of ’23. I will not be surprised if it’s not larger than the so called average garden variety.”

And the legendary investor, who has never had a down year in the markets, fears it could be something even worse. “I don’t rule out something really bad,” he said effectively repeating what we said in April that "Every Fed Hiking Cycle Ends With Default And Bankruptcy Of Governments, Banks And Investors" "

He pointed to massive global quantitative easing that reached $30 trillion as what’s driving the looming recession: “Our central case is a hard landing by the end of next year", he said, adding that we have also had a bunch of myopic policies such as the Treasury running down the savings account, and Biden's irresponsible oil SPR drain.

Repeating something else even the rather slow "transitory bros" and "team MMT" know by now, Druckenmiller said he believes the extraordinary quantitative easing and zero interest rates over the past decade created an asset bubble.

“All those factors that cause a bull market, they’re not only stopping, they’re reversing every one of them,” Druckenmiller said. “We are in deep trouble.”

The Fed is now in the middle of its most aggressive pace of tightening since the 1980s. The central bank last week raised rates by three-quarters of a percentage point for a third straight time and pledged more hikes to beat inflation, triggering a big sell-off in risk assets. The S&P 500 has taken out its June low and reached a new bear market low Tuesday following a six-day losing streak.

Druckenmiller said the Fed made a policy error - as did we... repeatedly... last summer - when it came up with a “ridiculous theory of transitory,” thinking inflation was driven by supply chain and demand factors largely associated with the pandemic.

“When you make a mistake, you got to admit you’re wrong and move on that nine or 10 months, that they just sat there and bought $120 billion in bonds,” Druckenmiller said. “I think the repercussions of that are going to be with us for a long, long time.”

“You don’t even need to talk about Black Swans to be worried here. To me, the risk reward of owning assets doesn’t make a lot of sense,” Druckenmiller said.

Commenting on recent events, Druck was more upbeat, saying “I like everything I’m hearing out of the Fed and I hope they finish the job,” he said. Now, the tightening has to go all the way. “You have to slay the dragon.” The problem is that, as the BOE demonstrated with its QT to QE pivot today, it's impossible to slay the dragon and sooner or later every central banks fails.

What happens then? According to Druck, once people lose trust in central banks - which at this rate could happen in a few weeks or tomorrow - he expects a cryptocurrency renaissance, something which may already be starting...

... and not just there, but in the original crypto - gold - as well...

Excerpts from his interview below:

Tyler Durden Wed, 09/28/2022 - 12:26

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Economics

Interest rates, the yield curve, and the Fed chasing a Phantom (lagging) Menace

  – by New Deal democratThere’s a lot going on with interest rates in the past few days.Mortgage rates have increased above 7%:This is the highest…

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 - by New Deal democrat

There’s a lot going on with interest rates in the past few days.


Mortgage rates have increased above 7%:



This is the highest rate since 2008. Needless to say, if it lasts for any period of time it will further damage the housing market.

The yield curve has almost completely inverted from 3 years out (lower bar on left; upper bar shows a similar curve in April 2000, 11 months before the 2001 recession):



As of this morning, the curve is normally sloped from the 3.12% Fed funds rate up through the 3year Treasury, which is yielding 4.22% (which, as an aside, is a mighty tasty temptation to buy medium maturity bonds). Beyond that, with the exception of the 20 year Treasury, each maturity of longer duration is yielding progressively less. If this is like almost all recessions in the last half century, the short end of the yield curve will fully invert (i.e., Fed funds through 2 years as well) before the recession actually begins. Although I won’t show the graph, the yield curve *un*-inverted before the last two recessions even began, immediately or shortly after the Fed began to lower rates again.

On the issue of rents, house prices, and owners equivalent rent, Prof. Paul Krugman follows up on the fact that OER is a lagging measure. Today he touts the monthly decline in new rental lease prices as possibly signaling a downturn in inflation:





He’s referring to the “National Rent Index” from Apartment List, which Bill McBride has also been tracking. Because it tracks rents in only new or renewed leases, it picks up increases or decreases more quickly than those indexes that measure all rentals (including those that were renewed, e.g., 9 months ago).

I don’t think the index is quite the signal Paul Krugman does, because it is not seasonally adjusted, and rents typically decrease in the last 4 months of each year:



Here is the cumulative yearly index for each of the past 5 years:



The -0.1% non-seasonally adjusted decrease in September this year is on par with that of 2018, and less of a decline in September 2019 or 2020. For the first half of this year, rents were increasing at a faster, and accelerating, rate compared with 2018 and 2019. Since June have rent changes been comparable with (and not more negative than) those two years.

I thought I would take a look at Apartment List’s rental index and compare it with the Case Shiller house price index:



Note that house prices broke out to the upside YoY beginning in late spring 2020, while apartment rents did not do so until early 2021. There were rent increase moratoriums in place during the pandemic, which may have affected that comparison. Still, it is cautionary that for the limited 5 year comparison time we do have, house price indexes moved first.

Finally, what would the Fed have done if it had used the Case Shiller index instead of owners equivalent rent in its targeted “core inflation” metric?

Via Mike Sherlock, here’s what the “Case Shiller [total, not core] CPI” looks like through last month:



Here’s another way of looking at the data, comparing the monthly % changes in the Case Shiller national house price index (blue), owners equivalent rent (red, right scale), and core CPI (i.e., minus food and energy) (gold, right scale):



Rent + owner’s equivalent rent are 40% of core inflation. Unsurprisingly, core inflation tends to track similarly to OER. But between May 2021 and May 2022, OER only averaged +0.4% monthly, whereas the Case Shiller index increased 1.5% on average monthly. If 40% of core inflation increased at 1.5% monthly instead of 0.4% monthly, core inflation would have on average been +0.4% higher each month for that entire year.

In other words, the Fed would have had a much earlier warning that an upsurge in core inflation was not going to be “transitory.” 

By contrast, during the last 3 months of the period through July that we have house price index data, OER has averaged +0.4%, whereas house prices have increased on average +0.6%. This would have brought core inflation down by -0.1% each month. If we use the last two months, OER is +0.6% and house prices have been unchanged. Core inflation would have been -0.3% lower in June and July.

In fact, if the trend of the last several months continues, by year end OER is going to be higher than house price appreciation on a YoY as well as m/m basis. And while OER has been increasing, house price indexes have been decelerating. 

In other words, if the Fed keeps raising rates, it is most likely chasing a phantom menace, a lagging indicator which leading measures for which will have already peaked and come down sharply.

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