European Investment-Grade Corporate Risk Climbs to Two-Year High

The cost of insuring European investment-grade corporate debt rose to the highest since October 2013 as low commodity prices spur concerns about borrowings at energy, metals and mining companies.

The Markit iTraxx Europe Index of credit-default swaps on 125 highly rated companies rose for a third day and surpassed 100 basis points for the first time in more than two years, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The four basis-points climb extended this year’s increase to 24 basis points.

Swaps tied to miners Anglo American Plc and Glencore International AG, and oil company Repsol SA, have led this year’s increases as China’s cooling economy cuts commodity prices to near 25-year lows. Slower growth in the world’s second-biggest economy is also causing concern about banks’ exposure to the commodities sector.

“The continued decline in energy and commodity prices, which is connected to China’s slowdown, is putting pressure on companies,” said Craig Veysey, head of fixed income for the private wealth arm of Sanlam Group, which manages about 40 billion pounds ($58 billion) of assets. “It’s not just those in that sector, but banks as well.”

Low bond liquidity is also driving more investors to buy credit-default swaps to hedge risk from debt they are unable to sell, London-based Veysey said.

The Markit iTraxx Europe Crossover Index of default swaps on non-investment grade companies surpassed 400 basis points for the first time in more than a year. A gauge of credit-default swaps on investment-grade financial companies rose six basis points to 103 basis points, the highest in about two years.

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