So many of the exact same patterns that we witnessed just before the stock market crash of 2008 are playing out once again right before our eyes. Most of the time, a stock market crash doesn’t just come out of nowhere. Normally there are specific leading indicators that we can look for that will tell us if major trouble is on the horizon. One of these leading indicators is the junk bond market. Right now, a closely watched high yield bond ETF known as JNK is sitting at 35.77. If it falls below 35, that will be a major red flag, and it will be the first time that it has done so since 2009. As you can see from this chart, JNK started crashing in June and July of 2008 – well before equities started crashing later that year. A crash in junk bonds almost always precedes a major crash in stocks, and so this is something that I am watching carefully.
And there is a reason why junk bonds are crashing. In 2015 we have seen the most corporate bond downgrades since the last financial crisis, and corporate debt defaults are absolutely skyrocketing. The following comes from a recent piece by Porter Stansberry…
So far this year, nearly 300 U.S. corporations have seen their bonds downgraded. That’s the most downgrades per year since the financial crisis of 2008-2009. The year isn’t over yet. Neither are the downgrades. More worrisome, the 12-month default rate on high-yield corporate debt has doubled this year. This suggests we are well into the next major debt-default cycle.
Another thing that I am watching closely is the price of oil.