Following high yield debt is an excellent way to time market swings. A high yield bond (non-investment-grade bond, speculative-grade bond, or junk bond) is a bond that is rated below investment grade. These bonds have a higher risk of default and so they pay a higher yield than better quality bonds. Bonds rated below BBB− are called speculative grade bonds, or “junk” bonds, and fall into the category of high yield debt.

Recessions increase the possibility of default in speculative-grade bonds.

The number of companies issuing high yield debt is abnormally high for August. What is happening is that investors are anticipating higher rates from the Federal Reserve and so the higher yields of safer investment grade bonds start to come into greater competition with junk bonds. It’s the crowding out effect.

Tesla and other debt heavy corporations are front-running the crowding out effect by issuing as much junk bonds as they can before more interest rate hikes occur. You can read about rising junk bond issuance here.

Recently we have seen some government bonds downgraded to junk bond status like what’s happened recently in Illinois.

You have to be careful not to equate junk bonds in foreign countries with those issued in the US. In emerging markets like China and Vietnam, bonds have become increasingly important as financing options because access to traditional bank credits is limited, especially if borrowers are non-state corporations.

High Yield Debt Chart

Junk bonds act as a barometer for risk on versus risk off. In a risk on environment, investors chase after maximum yield and so they buy high yield debt. Junk bond investors are not too worried about a recession or default on their junk bonds. In a risk off environment, investors sell out of high yield debt and move to safer, lower yielding assets.

When non-investment-grade bonds spike up or down, the S&P 500 has a tendency to follow within 3 to 5 days.

high yield debt

Last week the high yield debt chart (HYG) spiked higher which is a bullish signal for the S&P 500 over the next 3 to 5 day period.