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January 9, 2013 7:00 pm
Banks and financial institutions are leading the pack of global borrowers that have rushed to the US debt markets at the start of the year.
Global corporations began 2013 with a wave of issuance that pushed total bond sales in the US over the $40bn mark in less than a week. But no group of borrowers has been more aggressive than banks and financial institutions.
Citigroup, Allstate and MetLife, among others, were joined by the UK’s Standard Chartered and Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo, sending dollar-denominated sales of bank debt to $14.3bn so far this year, according to Dealogic. In a single blockbuster sale, Bank of America offered $6bn in three parts on Tuesday. That was the largest bond sale so far in 2013.
Banks are rushing to squeeze in as many sales as possible ahead of the so-called quiet period, which precedes the release of their quarterly earnings reports, analysts said. Wells Fargo kicks off the US bank results season on Friday, with JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs coming next week.
“Banks tend to come to markets earlier in the year, but they are certainly being more aggressive,” said Jason Brady, portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management. “It’s a sign they are growing more comfortable with their balance sheets and in a position to take more debt.”
A recent rise in Treasury yields may also be contributing to the banks’ rush to lock in new funding sooner rather than later. The yield on the 10-year note moved close to 2 per cent from 1.7 per cent in a matter of days, before paring some of its advance.
“Any jump in rates tends to kick borrowers into action,” Mr Brady said.
Bank sales have also dominated the issuance calendar in Europe. Northern European issuers such as Deutsche Bank, HSBC France, BNP Paribas and Société Générale have all tapped the euro market in the past few days, but much of the focus has been on higher-yielding assets from the eurozone periphery.
BBVA, Spain’s second-largest bank by assets, reopened the region’s bond markets last week with a €1.5bn deal. But there have since been sales from Portuguese, Italian and other Spanish lenders, including Banco Espirito Santo, UniCredit, Caixabank and Banco Popular.
“Investors would prefer higher beta issuance just to get some decent yield in this low-rate environment,” said Suki Mann, head of credit strategy at SG.
European banks have also taken advantage of huge demand for dollar transactions. The $3.5bn Yankee offering from Italy’s Intesa was almost six times subscribed.
For investors, bank debt is appealing as supply is still recovering from a sharp drop in issuance in 2010 and 2011. Barclays analysts expect total sales by investment grade financial institutions to reach $290bn this year, in line with 2012.
Average yields on the securities are also higher. Yields on US investment-grade financials stood at 2.55 per cent this week, compared with 0.91 per cent for US Treasuries, according to Barclays indices.
Additional reporting by Tracy Alloway in New York
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