well known WSJ article ($), but finally you have a PE professional come out and speak about what is happening in the nutty high yield debt market.
The subprime mortgage world has been reduced to rubble with no lasting impact on another, larger, credit market dancing on an equally fragile precipice: high-yield corporate debt. In this fast-growing arena of loans to business -- these days, mostly, private equity deals -- lending proceeds as if the subprime debacle were some minor skirmish in a little known, far away land.
How curious that so many in the financial community should remain blissfully oblivious to live grenades scattered around the high-yield playing field. Amid all the asset bubbles that we've seen in recent years -- emerging markets in 1997, Internet and telecoms stocks in 2000, perhaps emerging markets or commercial real estate again today -- the current inflated pricing of high-yield loans will eventually earn quite an imposing tombstone in the graveyard of other great past manias.
In recent months, lower credit bonds -- conventionally defined as BB+ and below -- have traded at a smaller risk premium (as compared to U.S. Treasuries) than ever before in history. Over the past 20 years, this margin averaged 5.42 percentage points. Shortly before the Asian crisis in 1998, the spread was hovering just above 3 percentage points. Earlier this month, it touched down at a record 2.63 percentage points. That's less than 8% money for high-risk borrowers.