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Loan funds continue decline amid sell off

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Exchange traded funds tracking leveraged-loan performance saw sharp declines on Monday in the midst of worldwide drop in stock and bond markets reacting to pressures from oil market prices and the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Late Monday prior to closing, key exchange-traded funds tracking leveraged loans all fell between 2.91% and 4.43%, following a Friday leveraged loan index decline that was the steepest in nearly a decade.

Funds falling Monday included $6.05 billion-asset Invesco Senior Loan ETF, the $2.02 billion SPDR Blackstone GSO Senior Loan ETF (Nasdaq: SRLN), the $1.75 billion First Trust Senior Loan fund (Nasdaq: FTSL), and the $96.84 million Highland/iBoxx Senior EFT (Nasdaq: SNLN).

According to JPMorgan, its one-day leveraged loan index price decline of 66 cents to $94.91 (on a $100 par basis) on Friday was the largest single-day price drop since August 2011, and is close the $94.47 low from December 2018.

But the Friday closing price was still above the $91.52 average price during the 2016 industry sell-off.

The highest-rated junk loans (so-called “BB” loans) are pricing at $96.96, while single-B loans are averaging $95.28. Both rates are down $2.61 since Feb. 21, which has seen loan prices overall average a decline of $2.70, according to JPMorgan. The percentage of loans trading above par totaling only 0.71% of the market.

Entering Monday, the IHM Markit Leveraged Loan Index had a month-to-date decline of 1.22%, or nearly half of its 2.99% decline since the start of the year.

Investors sold off $49 million from leveraged-loan exchange trade funds on Friday, plus another $185 million from actively managed funds. The $2.3 billion weekly outflow was the largest since December 2018. YTD outflows are $3.9 billion for loan funds.

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