National City Investment Management will seek to use new cash to boost its allocations to select industrial credits that suffered spread-widening last year but could rebound as the Federal Reserve eases interest rates. Andy Harding, a portfolio manager in charge of some $4 billion in taxable fixed-income in Cleveland, says he is ready to make purchases on a security-by-security basis, adding that current spread levels are attractive. Among industrials, he likes long maturities and household names such as Dow Chemical, 170 basis points over the 30-year Treasury, Ford Motor Co. at 255 over, and Wal-Mart Stores at 115 over. The right corporate sectors should outperform structured products in the next six months, says Harding, noting that in some cases there is a 100 basis-point pick-up on a quality A-rated corporate credit versus five-year credit-card ABS. "And being an ABS/MBS guy, that's pretty strong coming from me," he adds. Though he has switched to lower coupons, Harding will maintain his weighting in MBS, which he has seen hold up even in a lower-rate environment.
Harding is also eyeing select domestic telecom credits with maturities of 10 years or less, such as Verizon Communications. "They just don't have the capital expenditures that AT&T has, or Deutsche Telekom," he explains. Given the rate of technological change and the capital expenditures needed to keep up, Harding believes there will be some consolidation in global telecom. "It's still a little early from our standpoint to see who the winners and losers are going to be," he says.
The firm's portfolio is allocated 30% to mortgage-backed securities, 20% to corporates, 12% to ABS, 6% to CMBS, with the remainder split evenly between Treasuries and agencies. Duration is slightly long that of one of its benchmarks, the 4.58-year Lehman Brothers Aggregate Bond Index.