Highland Capital’s Okada Warns About Price-Sensitive Debt

Mark Okada, Chief Investment Officer of Highland Capital Management LP, is sounding the alarm on some high-yield, high-risk loans and bonds, which may be more susceptible to price swings as a result of record-low yields.

“Prices are more sensitive to fundamental risks because the coupon is so low,” Okada said today at a media briefing held by the Dallas-based hedge fund, which manages about $23 billion.

The Federal Reserve has held its benchmark interest rate between zero and 0.25 percent since 2008, which has forced investors to seek out riskier securities, boosting prices. The yield on Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s US High Yield Index reached an all-time low of 5.69 percent on June 23.

Highland is cutting back on debt it deems to be sensitive to this type of risk, Okada said. The hedge fund has identified as many as 70 companies in danger of such price volatility in the next 12 months, he said.

High-yield debt is rated less than Baa3 by Moody’s Investors Service and below BBB- at Standard & Poor’s.

“We have a relatively concentrated portfolio now,” Okada said. “A bigger number of holdings means more exposure to such price drops.”

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