The yield on high-quality US corporate bonds has fallen to record lows as investors seek out debt from top-notch companies as a relatively safe destination for their cash, the FT reports. The average yield on the benchmark Barclays Capital index of US corporate bonds with investment-grade ratings on Wednesday reached an all-time low of 3.42 per cent, five basis points below the previous record of reached in November of 2010. “Growth is continuing to slow and that is a challenge for all risk assets,” says Ashish Shah, head of global credit at Alliance Bernstein. “Investment-grade corporate credit is acting as a safe haven, because these companies have record amounts of cash on their balance sheets and low levels of short-term debt.” The rally in top-quality corporate debt comes as stocks and riskier bonds have continued to lose value. The uncertainty regarding the outlook for sovereign credits has made corporate bonds prized by investors.
British Land is planning to raise close to $500m by issuing bonds in the US private placement market, the FT says, in the latest sign of a big UK group diversifying funding sources. The UK’s second-largest property company, which owns property such as Broadgate in the City of London, had aimed to place $200m of bonds with US investors, but the fundraising was increased to about $480m amid robust demand. Demand among US investors for privately-placed bonds – structured issues acquired directly by institutional investors such as insurance companies – are at record levels, according to bankers, especially for those backed by strong corporate covenants. The process is seen as simpler and quicker than the public bond markets.
By John McDermott and Cardiff Garcia
Here’s a corporate bond mystery for you. Read more
Google has made its first foray into the bond markets, seeking to raise $3bn in an effort to boost its domestic cash reserves at a time when US corporate borrowing costs have returned to historical lows, the FT reports. The world’s largest internet search engine planned to raise the money with bonds maturing in three, five and 10 years. Google said that the money would replace existing commercial paper, suggesting that the debt sale was opportunistic to take advantage of low interest rates, but companies often turn to the bond market to get a foothold that lets them borrow more in future. According to Bloomberg, the company split the sale evenly between three-, five- and 10-year notes. The 1.25 percent, three-year notes yield 33 basis points more than similar-maturity Treasuries, the 2.125 percent, five-year debt pays a 43 basis-point spread, and the 3.625 percent, 10-year securities offer 58 basis points above benchmarks.
A quick rewind is necessary to put this post in context.
We wrote repeatedly last year about the problem of non-financial companies hoarding their cash rather than spending it, and attributed the trend to a few different factors: Read more
UK department store chain the John Lewis Partnership on Sunday said it expected to raise £50m by offerings its 75,000 partners and 1.5m partnership card and account card customers the opportunity to invest in a retail bond, reports the FT. It is the first time the company has sought to raise funds in the retail market, said a spokesman. John Lewis is expected to strike a cautious note in its earnings report on Wednesday, despite expectations of a 15% annual increase in profit and a possible rise in staff bonuses. Nick Bubb, analyst at Arden Partners, forecasts that pre-tax profit in the year to Jan 31 will increase from £307m to £352m. Reuters adds that its the five-year fixed-rate bond will launch on Monday.
It’s been a record week for corporate debt issuance in US markets, says Bloomberg — $48.2bn has been sold, eclipsing a previous week high of $46.9bn in May 2009. While General Electric Capital got the largest single offering away, 57 per cent of the week’s issues came from foreign sellers. Looking at investment-grade debt alone, the WSJ estimates that at least $35bn has been sold, making 2011′s market the busiest in this sector since 2010′s first week. There is one caveat to the current optimism, the FT warns: yields on Treasuries are rising at a faster pace than corporate bonds, which may make investors far more selective over the credits on offer.
Companies on both sides of the Atlantic have embarked on an early-year rush to issue debt in an effort to secure financing before any rise in borrowing costs, the FT reports. The surge in bond issuance on Tuesday came amid optimism about the US economy’s growth prospects and corporate earnings. An estimated $35.6bn in dollar-denominated bonds were priced on Tuesday, according to Dealogic. In the US, General Electric’s finance arm led the issuance wave with the sale of $6bn of debt. Europe’s banks also raised more than €7bn ($9bn) in covered bonds – that market’s busiest day in more than a year. On Monday,Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway had sold the first corporate debt of the year. The $1.5bn bond offering set a positive tone for the dollar markets, the most important source of debt financing for companies and banks around the world.
Can we talk a bit more about the scandal of Basel III allowing banks to give government bonds a zero risk weighting on their books? This time regarding Basel’s liquidity rules.
Actually, can we talk about the related global shortage of AAA-rated assets and what that means for sovereign debt as well? Read more
All hail Standard Chartered’s new synthetic Collateralised Loan Obligation:
2 December 2010, Singapore – Standard Chartered Bank has completed its sixth Collateralised Loan Obligation (CLO), START VI CLO, under its multi-award winning START CLO programme. Read more
At least not yet.
Although perhaps best to look away if you’re loaded up on US junk bonds, or Chilean and Indonesian equities in your portfolio. Read more
Companies from UPS to Time Warner Cable have rushed to lock in the low interest rates still available in the US bond markets, using the money to plug pension fund gaps, buy back shares or build up contingency cash piles, reports the FT. with government bond yields at near-record lows, the amount of money borrowed in the corporate bond markets so far this month has exceeded that of any previous November, according to data provider Dealogic, which said that blue-chip companies with investment grade ratings sold more than $41bn of new bonds in the past two weeks.
What’s this? Some good news from the Bank of England?
Out this Monday — a slew of announcements related to the Old Lady’s support programmes for British credit. They include (drumroll please) the following: Read more
Japan’s central bank has announced that it will buy up lower-rated corporate bonds and rescheduled its next monetary policy meeting to just one day after Federal Reserve officials will likely unveil QE in the US, says Bloomberg. The Bank of Japan’s governor said that the meeting date had been changed so that members could discuss buying ETFs and REITs. However, the BoJ has a clear incentive to start easing before the yen’s strength gets out of hand in a US QE environment, according to Reuters. The BoJ meanwhile believes that Japan’s recovery is slowing down even as it claims the country will exit deflation some time in 2011, Nikkei reports.
Jake of Econompic Data on Monday posted a couple of interesting charts emphasizing the remarkably similar performance this year of corporate bonds with different ratings:
Citi is back with another take on low bond yields and pension accounting.
And before you fall asleep (wake up!) this is an update of Citi’s March 2009 note on quantitative easing and exploding pensions. Read more
Corporate America is leaving the flagging US economy behind, the WSJ says. Companies in the S&P 500 saw second-quarter profits increase 38 per cent compared to a year earlier, while all US companies saw a 26.5 per cent rise in post-tax profit over the same period — historic figures for postwar markets, if they aren’t adjusted for inflation. It’s the result of a massive and permanent restructuring wave across the corporate sector, the Journal adds — with the boards of many big companies wary of spending, costs have been cut and refocused, with thousands of jobs laid off or outsourced. The corporate bond boom continues in the meantime, the NYT reports, adding that companies are indeed using the cash to save rather than spend.
Tinned food? Check. Bunker? Check. Emergency smokes? Check.
Rolex watch, Toblerone, fondue kit, cuckoo clock? Check. Read more
Around $51bn in corporate bonds and leveraged loans have entered the debt market in the past two days, with this week looking to be the busiest of the year so far for high-grade corporate issuance, the WSJ reports. The culprit is Planet Zirp, of course — corporates are benefiting from interest rates keeping close to zero, while investors are keen for higher-yielding assets. Allergan issued $650m of bonds at a 3.375 per cent yield this week, for example — the lowest yield for a US corporate since at least 1995. But companies are already pumped with cash, the NYT notes — they’re just borrowing anyway because it’s so cheap.
Goldman Sachs continues to slide down the rankings of banks underwriting corporate bonds, throwing doubt on its bid to reinvent itself as a company adviser, Bloomberg reports. Goldman is now tenth in corporate finance — down from ninth last year, and first in 2003. The bank remains at the top of the mergers and acquisitions league. Goldman is at the same time unlikely to spin off its proprietary trading desk into a hedge fund, FINalternatives notes.
Two global titans — one of fast food and one of the world economy — have teamed up in the debt market. For, McDonalds has become the first foreign corporate to issue a renminbi-denominated bond, reports FT Alphaville. Meanwhile, Beyond Brics reports on the first cross-border treade credit between ICBC and Indonesia’s Huawei to be denominated in yuan, and asks did the RMB just go global? Read more
Felix Salmon suggested on Tuesday that corporates would never trade through Treasuries.
In fact, he wrote (our emphasis): Read more
Why did junk bond issuance reach new heights last week? And why has it nearly reached an annual record high this year?
While yield-hungry investors are probably looking for anything they can get, it seems a few things have happened this year for the stars to have aligned so neatly for junk. Read more
Finally. The moment David Rosenberg has been waiting for…
As the Gluskin Sheff economist stated in his regular Breakfast with Dave note on Wednesday (our emphasis): Read more
Anadarko, the US partner to BP in the oil well at the centre of the Gulf of Mexico spill, sold $2bn in bonds on Monday, highlighting renewed confidence in the sector as well as strong demand for corporate debt in the US, according to the FT. The notes, which will be used to refinance Andarko’s debt, lack protection for creditors against claims stemming from the worst oil spill in US history, Bloomberg reports.