BANK OF AMERICA: After a ‘Fast and Furious’ market downfall, investors should buy whatever the Fed buys

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) as the Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell holds a news conference on December 19, 2018 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • Investors searching for a near-term play should take a page from the Federal Reserve’s playbook and look to corporate debt, Bank of America said.
  • Investment-grade debt already enjoyed a bump from the Fed’s announcement of new corporate credit facilities, and the sector will rally further as the central bank begins bond purchases, the firm’s strategists wrote Friday.
  • Companies eligible for the central bank’s aid will jump first before gains spill over into non-eligible bonds, the team added.
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Investors looking for value in coronavirus-battered financial markets should follow the Federal Reserve, Bank of America said Friday.

Markets are moving “at a dizzying pace” after the coronavirus pandemic dragged stocks into a bear market and plunged the US into a likely recession in less than a month, the team of strategists led by Hans Mikkelsen said. While economic recovery is months away, the Fed’s upcoming purchases of corporate bonds present short-term opportunities for investors, according to the firm.

The central bank lifted the cap on future asset purchases on March 23, ushering in fresh Fed stimulus and immediately driving Treasury prices higher. Newly established credit facilities for ailing companies lifted the corporate bond market from a threatening slump.

Read more: 200-plus money managers pay thousands to see what stocks are on Jim Osman’s buy list. Here are 3 he says are set to soar ‘at least 50%’ from their coronavirus-stricken levels.

The corporate bond rally has already been reflected in broad sector trackers like the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond exchange-traded fund. The ETF soared about 12.4% from its March 19 low after the Fed’s intervention drove investors into the popular vehicle.

Bonds are poised to rally further in the near future, Bank of America said, as the Fed’s intervention eases market stresses and liquidity stabilizes. Companies eligible for the central bank’s aid will jump first before gains spill over into non-eligible bonds, according to the team.

The spread between corporate credit yields and Treasuries are off from their March 23 highs, but “the rally does not stop there as investors grow more comfortable that the COVID-19 outbreak is under better control and the economy can ramp up,” they added.

Debt needs to be rated investment-grade to tap into the Fed’s new facilities, setting up such bonds for a healthy jump. The supply of investment-grade debt has fallen by $US89 billion so far as ratings agencies downgrade firms on coronavirus risks, according to Bank of America. The demand-side of the market is also poised for a boost, as outflows slow from previous weeks’ record levels.

Credit health will likely improve as well, as high-yield issuers look to draw from the Fed’s new pools. A “sizable rating upgrade cycle” in European high-yield debt followed the launch of the European Central Bank’s corporate debt purchase program in June 2016, the bank said. A similar pattern may arise in the US as firms shore up cash and “fight more for their IG ratings,” the team added.

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