Wry & Dry

Get out the Bex [3]

Not that W&D wants to depress you any more, but... as readers know, W&D has been concerned about the massive issue of corporate debt in the US by companies wishing to take advantage of record low interest rates.  

Investors, lured into the $1.8-trillion US junk-bond minefield by the Fed’s siren call to be fleeced by Wall Street and Corporate America, are now getting bloodied as the value of these investments are plunging.

Standard & Poor’s 'distress ratio' for bonds, which started rising a year ago, reached 20.1% by the end of November, up from 19.1% in October.  This is its worst level since September 2009.  Bonds are 'distressed' when prices are so low that the yields are greater than 10% points higher than US government bonds.  The 'distress ratio' is the number of non-defaulted distressed junk-bonds divided by the total number of bonds.  

Distressed debt

This is what the end of a credit bubble looks like.  It unravels from the bottom.  Investors who had been desperately chasing yield, thinking that the Fed had abolished all risks, dived into bonds with absurdly low yields.  Caveat emptor.

And then there is Mexico, where ICA, that country's largest construction company, is about to default on its US$ debt.  If it happens, this will be Mexico's biggest bond default since the so-called Tequila Crisis of 20 years ago.

According to Bloomberg, ICA's debt is 10.75 times its EBITDA (Earning Before Interest Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation).   Good grief!  On top of declining government contracts, it's the age old problem of having your debt in one currency and your revenues in another.  

Mexico

The logic is simple, even to W&D's at-capacity brain:  Interest rates go up.  The dollar goes up.  The peso goes down.  The company goes bust.

-       Anthony Starkins

[1]  For example: Mal Colston (Labor to Queensland First); Bob Katter Snr (Labor to DLP to Liberal to National) and Cheryl Kernot (Democrat to Labor).

[2]  In the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, Australia won its only men's 4 x 100 medley relay gold medal.  The ABC's Norman May's call of the race has become legendary, with his final shout of "Gold, gold, gold to Australia". 

[3] Bex was an over the counter analgesic, that was widely used, especially amongst Australian women as a pick-me-up, until it was banned in 1977.  Users were recommended to take as many as three doses per day, dissolved in tea or water.  It contained an addictive pain killer phenacetin that also caused kidney cancer.  The phrase 'take a Bex and have a good lie down' came from a a comedy revue in Sydney's Phillips St Theatre from 1965.  Veganin and APC also contained phenacetin.