Skip to main content

U.S. Consumer ABS Market Balances Recession Fears with Reach for Yield (Part 1 of 4)

By David Kim
Managing Director | CSC Global Financial Markets
Share this post

The U.S. consumer ABS market is in the middle of a balancing act, as investors cautiously look at indicators of further economic pain while also eyeing riskier assets in the hunt for yield, according to CSC and GlobalCapital’s annual securitization pulse survey.

Survey respondents paint a picture of a market caught between two distinct impulses.

On one hand, respondents agree that there is an economic downside ahead, at least in the near term. Since the pandemic began early last year, this has driven a flight to quality among ABS investors, pushing spreads tighter on things like prime auto ABS and credit card bonds. The short-dated nature and prime quality of the borrowers have been an attractive buy in times of intense uncertainty.

On the other hand, however,  market players acknowledge that rates will stay low for quite some time longer than many expected at the outset of 2020, before coronavirus hobbled what had been a booming economy. As the U.S. Federal Reserve burns through its crisis-era playbook, it has signaled its intent to keep rates near zero through at least 2023.

Reflecting this demand for higher-yielding assets, survey respondents ranked subprime auto ABS as representing the best opportunity among other consumer ABS asset classes, ahead of credit card, prime auto, and marketplace consumer ABS.  

Conversely, survey respondents ranked marketplace loans as the riskiest asset class, a common theme throughout the pandemic. According to sources speaking with GlobalCapital, marketplace loans become increasingly risky during stressful economic times. They tend to be lower in priority for borrowers than mortgages, car payments, or even cell phone bills. Certain marketplace loan deals have already breached triggers and have had to accelerate payments to noteholders to dodge losses on the senior bonds.

For the subprime auto sector, survey data shows that more than 60% of respondents saw the best value in the mezzanine tranches of the capital stack. Compare that to marketplace loans, where 100% of investors specifically said they are staying up in the most senior parts of the capital stack.

There was a dispersion of views on the direction of spreads. Speaking with sources in the market, the wide range of opinions on whether spreads in these asset classes will tighten, widen, or remain flat over the next 12 months is a function of:

  • • uncertainty related to the potential path of regulation and legislation;

  • • lack of clarity on the Covid-19 crisis; and

  • • length and depth of the economic downturn.

Experience matters

CSC supports issuers, investors, arrangers, originators and advisors across all asset classes. Clients entrust us with their SPV management, independent director needs, trustee and agency commitments, accounting requirements, and more across the United States, Europe, and Asia-Pacific. Commercial and agile in our thinking, our team brings innovative ideas to client interactions. With more than 120 years of independent ownership, we stand alone for long-term stability amid a turbulent marketplace.

About the survey

The data is based on a market study conducted by GlobalCapital during August and September 2020. A total of 180 responses were collected across 31 countries in Europe and North America, spanning mid- and senior-level executive positions and four core stakeholder types: issuer-sponsor, service providers, investors, underwriters-arrangers-bookrunners-structurers, and other.

View all of the blogs in our four part series:

Part 1: U.S. Consumer ABS Market Balances Recession Fears with Reach for Yield

Part 2: Market participants expect to see consumer ABS defy pandemic gloom in 2021

Part 3: Yield quest sparks drive to esoteric ABS assets

Part 4: Securitization market sees slower NPL increase

Download the expanded report, Global Securitization Market Outlook