Investment Strategies

Q3 Credit Market Update: PIMCO Flexible Credit Income Fund (PFLEX)

We believe the investment environment is becoming increasingly attractive for strategies with flexible capital like PFLEX. Learn about the potential benefits of an opportunistic approach going forward. For more insights, please visit

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Text on screen: PIMCO

Text on screen: The Market

Text on screen: TITLE - Credit markets in review: YTD 2023

Image on screen: A bar chart shows the market returns for six different categories of credit for the first half of 2023. The first three bars, shaded in blue on the left-hand side, represent corporate credit, showing a 6.0% return for high yield, 0.4% for investment grade, and 7.4% for leveraged loans. On the right, three bars show the performance for securitized credit: a loss of 10% for commercial mortgage-backed securities, and –0.5% for residential mortgages, and a gain of 4.4% for specialty finance.

Credit markets have seen strong performance this year, with positive returns for most sectors continuing through the third quarter. However, there remains a bifurcation among credit sectors.

Generic, easily accessible corporate credit has continued to rally even in the face of sharply higher interest rates.

We think the impact of higher rates on corporate borrowers is starting to create real challenges. In our view, the existing stock of floating rate loans may disappoint going forward.

With the market now coming to accept the outlook of “higher for longer” interest rates,” investors may need to rethink the type of strategies that could perform well in this new, higher rate world.

Text on screen: PFLEX Portfolio positioning

Text on screen: TITLE – The PFLEX strategy takes a flexible approach to investing across a broad opportunity set; SUBTITLE – The portfolio has shifted allocation over time to capture opportunities across credit markets

Image on screen: A bar chart shows the allocation of five different asset classes within PFLEX for the last 1- quarters ending September 30. The first bar represents the quarter ending in September 2021. Each bar shows colored shaded regions that help show the changes over time in the allocations. It’s clear that corporate credit is the largest holding in all of the allocations over time, but it narrows over the last nine quarters. By September 2023, corporate credit makes up about 25% of holdings, down from a peak of about 45% the third quarter of 2021. Residential mortgages represents the next largest allocation in September 2023, with about a 23% allocation, up from its lowest level of about 12% in March 2022. Commercial mortgages in September 2023 represented about 22% of the holdings, up slightly from June 2023. Allocation to specialty finance in September 2023 is around 10%, which is close to its average across the period. Other holdings represent about 13% of the allocation, lower than its peak of about 21% in December 2021.

The PIMCO Flexible Credit Income Fund, or PFLEX strategy is a flexible, income-oriented solution to help enhance return potential while seeking to diversify away from traditional corporate credit and equity risk.

Faced with a “higher for longer” outlook, we have continued to follow a bend-but-don’t-break approach, and are focused on seeking relative value where yields are higher and spreads wider, but where we think credit risk has not significantly increased.

The strategy continues to emphasize securitized credit, where residential mortgages remain one of our highest conviction investments. The sector can benefit from substantial equity cushions, and cash flows that we think will remain resilient even in a recessionary environment.

In commercial real estate, we continue to identify opportunities in discounted commercial mortgage backed securities, or CMBS, with yields in the high single to low double digit range, and robust fundamentals.

Nearly half of our CMBS portfolio is invested in the hospitality sector. Hotels have experienced a remarkable recovery post-pandemic, benefitting from a surging demand in leisure and business travel.

Within corporate credit, the PFLEX strategy has focused on idiosyncratic opportunities instead of generic investments in high yield and leveraged loans. At current prices levels, the existing stock of generic floating rate loans does not price sufficient downside risk for the possibility of a deeper recession, in our view. For that reason, we have looked to identify idiosyncratic, special situations opportunities where we can leverage the scale of the PIMCO platform to obtain control of credit documentation, maintain seniority in the capital structure, and position ourselves to profit while seeking to mitigate downside risks.

While these investments often have a longer investment horizon and may experience higher mark-to-market volatility, we think they offer more attractive total return potential, both yield and capital appreciation, and better downside risk mitigation compared to other opportunities in the corporate credit markets.

Text on screen: The opportunity

Text on screen: TITLE – Securitized markets remain attractive relative to generic leveraged credit in our view; SUBTITLE – Spread valuations over the past five years

Image on screen: A chart shows the ranges of spread valuations over the past five years for five different fixed-income classes: specialty finance, residential mortgages, commercial mortgage-backed securities, leveraged loans, and U.S. high yield bonds. The chart plots the current spreads for the asset classes, represented by a green diamond plot on a horizontal line for each category. The X-axis shows zero to 100th percentile. The plots show how current spreads are all below the median of the range, or 50th percentile, which marks the middle of the ranges. To the left-hand side shows higher spreads, with the bottom quartile shaded in blue, representing cheaply-priced assets. Conversely, the right-hand side shows the top quartile, shaded in pink, representing the low end of the spread ranges, which are expensively-priced assets. The first category, showing specialty finance, indicates a current spread of 247 basis points above LIBOR, just putting it in the median, at the edge of the blue, or cheaply-priced, zone. Residential mortgages have a spread of 230 basis points, not in the cheap zone, but well below the median percentile. Next, CMBS have a current spread of 1,203 basis points above swaps, placing it in the bottom quartile of its range, well situated in the blue zone. Leveraged loans trades at 318 basis points above swaps, and U.S. high yield at 426 basis points versus LIBOR, both below their five-year 50th percentile medians, priced more towards cheap than expensive.

We think the benign credit environment of recent years is behind us and believe that the PFLEX strategy is the right one to not only capture opportunities, but to offer downside mitigation potential.

While the rapid rise in rates proved challenging for fixed rate assets and special situations corporate investments, with that pain now priced in, we think there is an incredibly attractive value proposition in the PFLEX strategy on a go forward basis, attractive because of starting valuations and our ability to generate income and capital appreciation potential, and the potential diversification relative to traditional corporate credit risk. 

Valuations in securitized markets, including  CMBS and Non-Agency residential mortgages remain very attractive compared to historical levels, and have lagged the recovery in corporate markets despite strong fundamentals.

For example, residential and commercial mortgage credit have only recovered 20% of their initial drawdowns, where corporate credit has recovered nearly 60%. While certain segments of the market such as private floating rate credit have seen less mark-to-market volatility, it’s highly unlikely, in our view, that after a massive move in interest rates, valuations for these assets are little changed because they are floating rate. Floating interest rate exposure has been a benefit to investors over the last year, however these floating rates are putting pressure on companies now struggling to service their debt at higher borrowing costs.

Simply put, we believe the strategies that worked in a rising rate, benign credit environment could be at risk in a more volatile, challenging credit environment.

An opportunistic approach and diversification will be more important than ever going forward, in our view. With a flexible mandate, a diversified portfolio of credit investments marked at a discount to par, we think the PFLEX fund strategy is an incredibly attractive solution to navigate this new, higher rate, market environment.

Text on screen: The recap

Text on screen: TITLE - We think the PFLEX strategy is an attractive solution for this higher rate market environment.

Image on screen: A graphic lists bullet points that follow along with the narration of the video. The bullets are divided into three sections: Market Review, Portfolio Positioning and The Opportunity. The three bullets under Market Review read, 1) Credit market performance has remained strong through Q3 this year, but experienced continued bifurcation among sectors; 2) Corporate credit has rallied in the face of higher interest rates, but corporate borrowers may face challenges going forward; if rates stay ‘higher for longer,’ investors may need to rethink the types of strategies that can perform well in this new environment. The three bullets under Portfolio Positioning read, 1) we are focused on seeking relative value where yields are higher and spreads wider, but where we think credit risk has not increased significantly; 2) we continue to emphasize securitized credit, where residential mortgages remain a high conviction investments, and we continue to identify attractive opportunities in commercial mortgages where fundamentals are strong, but prices are dislocated; 3) within corporate credit, we have focused on idiosyncratic, special situations opportunities where we think there’s an asymmetry of risk and reward in our favor, instead of investments in generic high yield and leveraged loans. The four bullets under Then Opportunity read, 1) we think the benign credit environment of recent years is behind us and PFLEX is positioned to capture opportunities and also offer downside mitigation potential; 2) valuations in securitized markets remain very attractive compared to historical levels and have lagged the recovery in corporate markets despite strong fundamentals; 3) we believe the strategies that worked in a rising rate, benign credit environment could be most at risk in a more volatile, challenging credit environment; 4) in our view, an opportunistic approach and diversification will be more important than ever going forward.

Text on screen: For more insights and information visit

Text on screen: PIMCO


Investors should consider the investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses of the fund carefully before investing. This and other information are contained in the fund’s prospectus, which may be obtained by contacting your investment professional or PIMCO representative or by visiting Please read the prospectus carefully before you invest or send money.

The fund is an unlisted closed-end “interval fund.” Limited liquidity is provided to shareholders only through the fund’s quarterly offers to repurchase between 5% to 25% of its outstanding shares at net asset value (subject to applicable law and approval of the Board of Trustees, the Fund currently expects to offer to repurchase 5% of outstanding shares per quarter).

Investments made by the Fund and the results achieved by the Fund are not expected to be the same as those made by any other PIMCO-advised Fund, including those with a similar name, investment objective or policies.A new or smaller Fund’s performance may not represent how the Fund is expected to or may perform in the long-term. New Funds have limited operating histories for investors to evaluate and new and smaller Funds may not attract sufficient assets to achieve investment and trading efficiencies.

It is important to note that differences exist between the Fund’s daily internal accounting records, the fund’s financial statements prepared in accordance with U.S. GAAP, and reporting practices under income tax regulations. It is possible that the Fund may not issue a Section 19 Notice in situations where the Fund’s financial statements prepared later and in accordance with U.S. GAAP or the final tax character of those distributions might later report that the sources of those distributions included capital gains and/or a return of capital. Please see the fund’s most recent shareholder report for more details.

A word about risk: Investing in the bond market is subject to risks, including market, interest rate, issuer, credit, inflation risk, and liquidity risk. The value of most bonds and bond strategies are impacted by changes in interest rates. Bonds and bond strategies with longer durations tend to be more sensitive and volatile than those with shorter durations; bond prices generally fall as interest rates rise, and low interest rate environments increase this risk. Reductions in bond counterparty capacity may contribute to decreased market liquidity and increased price volatility. Bond investments may be worth more or less than the original cost when redeemed. Investing in foreign denominated and/or domiciled securities may involve heightened risk due to currency fluctuations, and economic and political risks, which may be enhanced in emerging markets. Mortgage-related assets and other asset-backed instruments may be sensitive to changes in interest rates, subject to early repayment risk, and their value may fluctuate in response to the market’s perception of issuer creditworthiness; while generally supported by some form of government or private guarantee, there is no assurance that private guarantors will meet their obligations. High-yield, lower-rated, securities involve greater risk than higher-rated securities; portfolios that invest in them may be subject to greater levels of credit and liquidity risk than portfolios that do not. Equities may decline in value due to both real and perceived general market, economic, and industry conditions. Bank loans are often less liquid than other types of debt instruments and general market and financial conditions may affect the prepayment of bank loans, as such the prepayments cannot be predicted with accuracy. There is no assurance that the liquidation of any collateral from a secured bank loan would satisfy the borrower’s obligation, or that such collateral could be liquidated.

Investments in distressed loans and bankrupt companies are speculative and the repayment of default obligations contains significant uncertainties. The value of real estate and portfolios that invest in real estate may fluctuate due to: losses from casualty or condemnation, changes in local and general economic conditions, supply and demand, interest rates, property tax rates, regulatory limitations on rents, zoning laws, and operating expenses. Structured products such as collateralized debt obligations are also highly complex instruments, typically involving a high degree of risk; use of these instruments may involve derivative instruments that could lose more than the principal amount invested. Derivatives may involve certain costs and risks such as liquidity, interest rate, market, credit, management and the risk that a position could not be closed when most advantageous. Investing in derivatives could lose more than the amount invested. The fund typically uses leverage by borrowing for investment purposes to purchase additional shares of other PIMCO funds in an effort to increase portfolio returns. Leveraging transactions, including borrowing, may cause a portfolio to be more volatile than if the portfolio had not been leveraged. Leveraging transactions typically involve expenses. When these interest expenses exceed the rate of return on investments purchased by the fund, with such leverage can reduce fund returns. The use of leverage may cause a portfolio to liquidate positions when it may not be advantageous to do so. Leveraging transactions may increase the fund’s sensitivity to interest rate movements

An investment in an interval fund is not appropriate for all investors. Unlike typical closed-end funds an interval fund’s shares are not typically listed on a stock exchange. Although interval funds provide limited liquidity to investors by offering to repurchase a limited amount of shares on a periodic basis, investors should consider shares of the Fund to be an illiquid investment. Investments in interval funds are therefore subject to liquidity risk as an investor may not be able to sell the shares at an advantageous time or price. There is also no secondary market for the Fund’s shares and none is expected to develop. There is no guarantee that an investor will be able to tender all or any of their requested Fund shares in a periodic repurchase offer.

Portfolio structure is subject to change without notice and may not be representative of current or future allocations. The credit quality of a particular security or group of securities does not ensure the stability or safety of the overall portfolio.

There can be no assurance that the investment approach discussed will produce the desired results or achieve any particular level of returns. Statements concerning financial market trends or portfolio strategies are based on current market conditions, which will fluctuate. There is no guarantee that these investment strategies will work under all market conditions or are appropriate for all investors and each investor should evaluate their ability to invest for a long-term especially during periods of downturn in the market. Outlook and strategies are subject to change without notice. An investment in the Fund is speculative involving a high degree of risk, including the risk of a substantial loss of investment.

PIMCO as a general matter provides services to qualified institutions, financial intermediaries and institutional investors. Individual investors should contact their own financial professional to determine the most appropriate investment options for their financial situation. This material contains the current opinions of the manager and such opinions are subject to change without notice. This material has been distributed for informational purposes only and should not be considered as investment advice or a recommendation of any particular security, strategy or investment product. Information contained herein has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but not guaranteed. No part of this material may be reproduced in any form, or referred to in any other publication, without express written permission. PIMCO is a trademark of Allianz Asset Management of America LLC in the United States and throughout the world. ©2023, PIMCO.

PIMCO Investments LLC, distributor, 1633 Broadway, New York, NY 10019, is a company of PIMCO.


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