Robeco: Periphery spreads consolidate

Robeco: Periphery spreads consolidate
18.03.2019 11:34:56

It seems the market has now fully discounted a no deal Brexit will not materialize. Italian bonds have returned 1.5% year-to-date, Spanish bonds 2.1%, Portuguese bonds 3% and Irish bonds 2.0%


Tonight, Friday March 15th, rating agency Moody’s will review Italy’s rating. In October last year Moody’s downgraded Italy to Baa3 with a stable outlook. At Baa3, just one notch above high yield, Moody’s rating is the lowest of the three major rating agencies. Both S&P and Fitch rate Italy at BBB. It is not expected that Moody’s will change its rating or for that matter its outlook tonight. The agency however will publish its updated macroeconomic assessment. This could reveal to what extent Moody’s expectations around Italy have changed and how this could impact rating action in the future. Ratings remain a key risk for Italy. Later in April, S&P will review Italy. A downgrade by S&P either in April or later this year in October can’t be excluded.


Also tonight, S&P will publish its rating review for Portugal. At BBB- with positive outlook S&P could upgrade Portugal to BBB. Portuguese bonds have been outperforming its peers recently. A  positive outcome tonight could underpin this rally. But given Portugal’s relatively low rating profile, Moody’s has Portugal at Baa3 and Fitch at BBB, it seems unlikely Portugal’s performance momentum can continue at this pace.


PSPP reinvestment data show that ECB gross reinvestments per country appear to be evened out over the year and also move towards the capital key. Portugal and Ireland would benefit disproportionally from this approach. Italy was the outlier, as over the first two months, Italy saw net buying whilst a move toward the capital key would have implied net selling. This could indicate some front loading of Italian purchases. 

Robeco Euro Government Bonds 

The fund is slightly defensively positioned in the periphery but overweight in semi-core long-dated bonds. Semi-core bonds from Belgium and France did find some ground as a more benign central bank regime, with policy rates lower for longer, is seen as supportive. The fund’s investments in peripheral bonds are at circa 33%, about 7% below the level of the index. Year to date the absolute return of the fund is 1.65%.

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