One area of the fixed income space that hasn’t received much press is investment grade corporate debt. With historically low interest rates, a strong economy, and relaxed lending standards, the prevailing thought was that borrowing to buy back shares or finance acquisitions was a low-risk strategy for a company with a decent balance sheet. What concerns analysts is the sheer size of the unprecedented borrowing that occurred. As shown in the chart below (from Wells Fargo), roughly $3.3 trillion—or 48% of all outstanding commercial debt—will come due in just the next four years. The total volume would be challenging for the market to absorb in the best of economic times, let alone 10 years into an economic expansion. Analysts acknowledge that while the level of debt coming due is not necessarily a sign of an impending financial crisis, it will certainly be a headwind for companies in the intermediate term.
Investment Grade Debt Maturing
| February 25, 2019