Bond Market Returns Mirror Cool Weather

January Fixed Income Market Update

Highlights from the fixed income markets:

  • Solid economic reports in January led investors to think that rate cuts expected as early as March might be deferred. Late in January, the Federal Reserve (Fed) announced it was leaving the Fed Funds rate unchanged for a fourth consecutive meeting.
  • Returns were negative across most fixed income categories in January as interest rates rose fractionally. The Bloomberg U.S. Aggregate Index (the Agg) was down -0.27% while outperforming similar-duration Treasuries. Investment grade (IG) corporates and municipal bonds posted losses for the month, while high yield (HY) corporates were flat.
  • IG corporate spreads finished the month close to unchanged, with a slight bias tighter. HY, on the other hand, saw spreads widen across all sectors, with the most significant widening coming in the Communications sector.
  • The HY default rate improved in January to 3.4%, as the number of high yield issuers to have defaulted in the past 12 months came down.


Read on for more details and analysis.

Market Summary

2024 started off slowly for most fixed income categories. High yield corporates were the top performer with a flat return on the month.

U.S. Treasury Market

Treasury yield changes were mixed in January. The long and short end of yield curve moved higher, while the belly of the curve was relatively stable.

Short Treasury returns were positive, while longer Treasuries—10-years and beyond—posted negative returns.

Broad Investment Grade

The Agg posted a small loss in January while outperforming Treasuries. Long corporates and mortgage-backed securities (MBS) were the main drivers of the losses for the month.

IG corporate credit spreads were essentially flat across the short and intermediate buckets. Long corporate spreads tightened.

IG corporate returns were negative, although all IG ratings categories outperformed Treasuries.

IG corporate spreads were mixed, with every sector but one finishing unchanged to slightly tighter. The only sector to realize wider spreads in the month was Capital Goods (industrial products, defense, etc.)

High Yield

HY corporates were flat overall for the month, with slight positive returns from BBs and Bs offset by a negative return on CCCs. All ratings categories realized wider spreads while outperforming similar-duration Treasuries.

Spreads were wider across the board in HY corporates. Communications made the most significant move wider, while Consumer Cyclical widened by the least.

The number of HY issuers to have defaulted in the past 12 months decreased by 3 in January, bringing the HY default rate down to 3.4% – still low by historical standards.

Municipals & Other

Municipal bond returns were negative in January. Yields moved higher across most rating and maturity categories.

Among the assorted other sectors, preferred stocks and leveraged loans generated a positive return for the month.

Learn more about SBH’s Fixed Income Strategies.

This update provides an overview of certain broad-based Fixed Income benchmarks and does not include performance of the Segall Bryant & Hamill Fixed Income styles. Past performance cannot guarantee future results. All investments involve risk, including the possible loss of capital. All opinions expressed in this material are solely the opinions of Segall Bryant & Hamill. You should not treat any opinion expressed as a specific inducement to make a particular investment or follow a particular strategy, but only as an expression of the manager’s opinions. The opinions expressed are based upon information the manager considers reliable, but completeness or accuracy is not warranted, and it should not be relied upon as such. Market conditions are subject to change at any time, and no forecast can be guaranteed. Any and all information perceived from this material does not constitute financial, legal, tax or other professional advice and is not intended as a substitute for consultation with a qualified professional. The manager’s statements and opinions are subject to change without notice, and Segall Bryant & Hamill is not under any obligation to update or correct any information provided in this material.

1 Source: Bloomberg.

2 Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

3 Hypothetical yields are calculated as the AA municipal yield divided by (1-tax rate). Actual tax-adjusted yields will depend on individual tax circumstances.

4 Source: Standard & Poor’s.

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