Pugh Capital Management will add about $20 million to its telecom and auto exposures over the next few months and sell agencies, on the view that the corporates are liquid and will bounce back in an economic recovery. It is mainly supply issues driving down the price of telecom, says Mary Pugh, who manages $450 million in taxable-fixed income for the Seattle, Wash.-based firm. Declining to discuss specific credits, she says the telecom and auto sectors are large parts of the indexes, and their spreads have widened about 100 basis points over the last year.
Pugh also likes bank paper because balance sheets in the sector are in much better financial shape than they have been in a long time, and corporate spread product widened markedly last year. Bank of America's 10-year paper went from 112 basis points in December 1999 to 193 basis points this past December, and is currently trading at about 175 basis points. Pugh is financing the rotation into corporates by selling five- to 10-year agencies because they've tightened appreciably over the past several months. The sales will bring the portfolio's agency overweight back down to neutral.
Although she believes in an economic recovery, Pugh thinks it will take place after the first half of this year. "Even if the economy rebounds, psychologically there will still be a lot of uncertainty," she says, adding the economy will get worse before it improves. The portfolio uses the Lehman Brothers Aggregate index, and is allocated 37% mortgages, 35% Treasuries and agencies and 28% corporates.