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High-yield bonds: 2023 outlook

November 16, 2022
clock 5 MIN READ

Default worries may be overblown

Historically, a U.S. recession has induced a significant number of defaults in the high-yield bond market. As the probability of a recession continues to rise, SEI believes high-yield bond default worries may be overblown. In our view, defaults should be kept in check by: a prior spike in defaults, record issuance in recent years, maturity management, and strong corporate fundamentals.

A neutral view in a challenged environment

High-yield bonds had a solid 2021, as they gained more than 5% (as measured by the ICE BofA US High Yield Constrained Index—USD Total Return) and notched three consecutive calendar years of gains. However, like most asset classes, 2022 has been a year of challenges with the asset class slumping more than 12% year to date through October 31, 2022. Persistently high inflation and the corresponding tightening of monetary policies (dramatically higher interest rates and quantitative tightening) by central banks have presented formidable headwinds.

On the other hand, oil prices have eased, the U.S. job market remains robust and bond yields are moving higher—the latter of which is good news for investors seeking long-term income. The yield for the ICE BofA US High Yield Constrained index has risen more than 400 basis points (a basis equals 0.01%) and is now about 9%. In relative terms, high yield’s attractiveness versus investment-grade credit (those securities rated BBB or above) has improved, while the spread (the difference in yield between a non-government and a government bond of similar maturity) has increased significantly and now exceeds 450 basis points.

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Index definitions

The ICE BofA US High Yield Constrained Index contains all securities in the ICE BofA US High Yield Index but caps exposure to individual issuers at 2%. The ICE BofA US High Yield Index tracks the performance of below-investment grade, U.S. dollar-denominated corporate bonds publicly issued in the U.S. domestic market.

 

Important information

This material represents an assessment of the market environment at a specific point in time and is not intended to be a forecast of future events or a guarantee of future results. Positioning and holdings are subject to change. All information as of the date indicated. There are risks involved with investing, including possible loss of principal. This information should not be relied upon by the reader as research or investment advice, (unless you have otherwise separately entered into a written agreement with SEI for the provision of investment advice) nor should it be construed as a recommendation to purchase or sell a security. The reader should consult with their financial professional for more information.

Statements that are not factual in nature, including opinions, projections and estimates, assume certain economic conditions and industry developments and constitute only current opinions that are subject to change without notice. Nothing herein is intended to be a forecast of future events, or a guarantee of future results.

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