New-issue volume for broadly syndicated and middle-market CLOs rose to $14.3 billion in February, from $6.4 billion for January (historically a slow month).
That marks the busiest start to the year, post financial crissi, for U.S. collateralized loan obligations, according to Thomson Reuters LPC. The $21 billion via 37 primary deals is 57.4% above the $9.1 billion two-month pace to start 2017.
And 2017 was no slouch; issuance reached $117 billion, marking the second-busiest year for CLOs since the financial crisis.
Annualized, the two-month period would eclipse the 2014 record for CLO issuance of $124 billion. Most analysts have kept CLO issuance forecasts at no higher than $110 billion, given the tight supply of leveraged loans used as collateral.
Refinancing and reset activity declined to a combined $8.5 billion in February from $13.8 billion in January. A year earlier, in February 2017, there were $19.1 billion of refis and resets, kick-starting a record year that totaled $161 million.
However, much of that activity was driven by the large number of deals grandfathered from risk retention rules that were eligible to be refinanced, but only once, without triggering compliance.
Spreads on CLO securities continued to narrow in February, with the average discount margin on triple-A rated tranches liabilities moving in to 104 basis points from 133 basis points in February 2017. The narrowest print last month, Libor plus 95 basis points, was achieved by four deals with two-year noncall periods and four-year reinvestment periods: Voya CLO 2018-1, Barings CLO 2018-1, Zais CLO 8 and Flatiron CLO 2018-1.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch was the busiest U.S. arranger on new volume CLOs year-to-date, with six deals totaling $3.3 billion for a 16% market share, followed by JPMorgan (five deals, $2.9 billion) and Credit Suisse (four deals, $2.5 billion).
The outstanding volume of CLOs grew to $511.42 billion.
European CLO deals had the second-busiest month on record with €2.9 billion of volume across seven deals, according to Thomson Reuters. Year-to-date volume is €3.7 billion, compared with €1.2 billion a year ago through February.
Leveraged lending has $186 billion in volume through the first two months of the year, which is 30% below last year’s record pace.
Total institutional loan volume outstanding has grown to $980 billion.