People outside our market who find the word 'credit' indivisible from the word 'crunch' might find this surprising, but there is still much to celebrate, as our coverage of Credit's 2009 European Awards (p. 27) demonstrates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main triumph this year was enjoyed by RBC Capital Markets which, while admittedly a beneficiary of the relative strength of the Canadian banking system, has impressed investors with its consistent focus on servicing the cash market.
The return to a more traditional environment has been a strong theme this year, as our cover story on agency brokers in the fixed income market (p. 18) shows. Credit perspicaciously anticipated the success of Evolution Securities - this year's winner in the agency broking category - in January, but it's worth remembering in this environment of scarce liquidity that this is the peak time for such enterprises. As one observer notes in our article, a third of firms in this business stand to do well in the long term, another third are safe for a year, while the remainder are already beginning to disappear.
Competitive pricing might be the ultimate unguent for investors in happier times, but even those with a relatively bullish outlook remain defensive. Pimco's Luke Spajic (p. 22) believes the market hit rock bottom in March but he still favours non-cyclical sectors such as utilities and anticipates that pricing in others might widen in response to an unsuccessful approach to the new issue market. On a more positive note, he also sees the arrival of a new generation of credit investors, attracted from the equity market by the relative absence of volatility coupled with equity-style returns. As the pension advisory specialist Rob Gardner confirms on page 46, credit is an appetising prospect for some investor groups. Maybe we're not seeing green shoots just yet, but there is cross-fertilisation.