Heading into this year, many bond market observers were concerned about the state of BBB-rated corporate debt and how much of that debt could be downgraded to junk, turning those bonds into fallen angels.
The VanEck Fallen Angel High Yield Bond ETF (NYSEArca: ANGL) is the dominant exchange traded funds providing access to fallen angels, or corporate bonds originally issued with investment-grade ratings that are later downgraded to junk. ANGL tracks the ICE BofAML US Fallen Angel High Yield Index (H0FA), “which is comprised of below investment grade corporate bonds denominated in U.S. dollars, issued in the U.S. domestic market and that were rated investment grade at the time of issuance,” according to VanEck.
While it is still too early in 2019 to say fears of substantial BBB downgrades are things of the past, ANGL is up more than 4% year-to-date and some analysts believe fears of fallen angel risk my be overstated.
“The significant rise in low investment-grade US corporate debt may not equate to greater fallen angel risk in the next downturn,” said Fitch Ratings in a recent note. “Some of the rise is due to M&A accompanied by EBITDA growth and some is attributed to rising stars and issuers maintaining low investment-grade ratings through the current cycle, while prudently taking advantage of lower borrowing costs. Credit ratings are meant to withstand cyclicality with forward looking views considering financial flexibility and incorporating realistic forecasts of future operating performance but ratings can change because of management missteps, unforeseen events or deeper-than-expected downturn conditions.”