Investors Binge on Record $308 Billion of Company Bond Sales
(Bloomberg) -- Companies globally sold a record amount of bonds in September as investors hungry for yield poured into debt, betting that major central banks can keep the global economy out of a recession and the worst can be avoided in the U.S.-China trade war.
Firms from Apple Inc. to France’s Orange and Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. sold more than $308 billion of notes, the first time ever that corporate issuance has topped the $300 billion mark in a month, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales globally this year are on track to exceed the equivalent of $2 trillion at the fastest pace ever.
The onslaught of investment-grade deals in the U.S. may ease to about $200 billion in the last quarter as tight spreads potentially make investors more cautious and they position for 2020, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said. Pacific Investment Management Co. said last month that it is “cautious” on corporate credit, and favors short-dated names and those that are less likely to default.
“To the extent that new issuance is credit enhancing -- refinancing and or extending the maturities of its debt -- then the issuance is good for the companies as well the current bondholders,” said Todd Schubert, head of fixed-income research at Bank of Singapore Ltd. “Many of the issues that I have seen fall under this category.”
In Europe, corporate bond sales have already set a full-year record with three months still left to go. Year-to-date investment-grade euro corporate bond issuance reached 582 billion euros ($636 billion) Tuesday, beating full-year totals dating back to at least 2014, Bloomberg data show. The tally includes 94.5 billion euros of September deals, well above a previous 90.3 billion euros record set in January.
U.S. borrowers such as Medtronic Plc and Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. have sold a market-leading 68 billion euros of bonds this year, partly to refinance costlier dollar debt. That tally is set to go even higher, with computer maker Dell Technologies Inc meeting investors from today for a planned debut sale of euro bonds, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, who declined to be identified citing company policy.
“Fifty billion euros-plus is easily achievable in the final quarter, even if the markets generally start to wobble in the face of macro and/or geopolitical event risk,“ said Suki Mann, founder of Creditmarketdaily.com, in a note to clients. He believes treasury desks are likely to “opportunistically pre-fund obligations which might not be maturing for another twelve months.”
September’s new U.S. investment-grade debt supply reached $158 billion, making it the third-largest month ever for issuance. It was a month for the record books: an unprecedented 130 issuers tapped debt capital markets after a frenzied start that made the first week the busiest market participants had seen in their careers.
The market’s ability to digest the supply boom was just as notable as the sheer volume of borrowers that came to market. Global demand for higher-yielding U.S. corporate debt underpinned sales, and investment-grade spreads closed about 5 basis points tighter over the course of September, finishing at 115 basis points over Treasuries Monday.
Risks have caught up with more borrowers recently, though. Corporate defaults in 2019 worldwide already match those in 2018, with 82 globally this year, S&P Global Ratings said on Sept. 26.
Still, with the global economy seen growing at or just below 3%, a lack of clear direction in U.S. interest rates, and a possible pause in U.S.-China trade tensions, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. expects the search for yield among investors to continue. Those factors are supportive of the bank’s preference for high-yield bonds over investment grade in Asia, it said in a report Friday.
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