With yields low, investors seeking income are tempted to seek yield in other sectors where real rates of return after inflation can be found. Higher yields have traditionally been found in so-called "High-Yield" (Junk) bonds with even greater historical returns from Emerging Markets.
With High-Yield bonds, a unique condition occurred after the bottom of the 2008 bear market in equities. Companies once considered investment grade, particularly in the financial sector, suddenly were found in the junk category. As many of these companies were bailed-out or subsidized by the government the sector became more attractive to opportunistic investors. Demand for yield and return of capital also stimulated investors no longer as interested in equities due to heavy losses. Further, demographics with an aging baby boomer population also fed the demand for both yield and perceived safety. Why junk then? The momentum from equities to bonds was strong and this combined with the dissatisfaction with low yields from more credit worthy sectors. Investors have rationalized greater safety in government subsidies than credit ratings would indicate to gain more yield.Emerging markets offered new opportunities as well. With growth from these economies in high gear opinions regarding their debt improved correspondingly. With demand for yield high this allowed investors to rationalize investments in these sectors. Nevertheless, High Yield and Emerging Market Bonds have historically traded at certain "spreads" to higher rated debt. These spreads given the odd factors of nearly zero interest rate policies in the U.S., the unique circumstances cited within the High Yield sector and economic growth in Emerging Markets have thrown traditional wide spreads between sector yields out of whack making analysis difficult. Below are several tables and charts reflecting current conditions within these various sectors with yields and spreads one to another.