Corporate Bonds Weaken As Euro Zone Rejects Greek Proposal

Date : 02/10/2012 @ 5:41PM
Source : Dow Jones News
Stock : Freeport-Mcmoran, Inc. (FCX)
Quote : 19.96  0.56 (2.89%) @ 7:56PM

Corporate Bonds Weaken As Euro Zone Rejects Greek Proposal

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The bond markets' reaction to Greek political leaders finding agreement on austerity measures was muted Thursday, but news that euro-zone finance ministers rejected the measures sparked a morning selloff Friday, and bonds didn't recover the rest of the day.

Each of the 10 most-actively traded bonds underperformed Treasurys on Friday, with several losing value for the entire week. Spreads on 10-year bonds of AT&T Inc. (T) and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) widened four and 12 basis points, respectively, while Citigroup Inc.'s (C) 30-year bonds worsened seven basis points, according to MarketAxess.

Recently issued bonds performed particularly badly, in contrast to the trend of recent weeks. Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc.'s (FCX) 10-year bonds, issued Wednesday, widened 19 basis points in Friday trading. Bank of America Corp. (BAC) 30-year bonds, issued February 2, widened 15 basis points.

The CDX North America Investment Grade Index, a measure of health in the corporate-bond market, worsened 2.4% as of 4:40 p.m. EST, according to Markit.

The negative tone appeared to have shut the new-issuance window for the week, but Ruby Pipeline surprised the market with a $1.075 billion private-placement price in mid-afternoon.

A joint venture between El Paso Corp. (EP) and Global Infrastructure Partners LLC, Ruby Pipeline quietly sold the private placement after heavy delays--the deal was first marketed in October.

An El Paso spokesman declined to comment on the timing, but sources said the issuer pulled the deal when it couldn't get the terms and interest it wanted last year, and likely reworked it for a more private audience.

The company sold $250 million of 4.5% five-year senior unsecured bonds at par, for a spread of 369 basis points over Treasurys, and $825 million in 10-year debt at 6%, or 407 basis points over Treasurys. Proceeds from the offering and an interim loan will help Ruby refinance an existing project-finance loan.

New-issuance this week finished well above expectations at $26.78 billion, according to data provider Dealogic. Expectations at the start of the week were for only $15 billion to $20 billion.

February has now seen $47.6 billion of new volume, about 57% of the $83.8 billion issued in January.

While secondary trading was flat or weaker on most days this week, new-issues continued to price extremely well. So well, in fact, that the average concession on new deals was negative this week for the first time since August 2010, according to an investment bank that tracks the figures.

A concession is the extra yield offered to investors to entice them into buying new issues. A negative figure means investors are willing to accept a lower yield on new bonds than comparable outstanding issues from that company. This week, the average concession was minus-four basis points, versus plus-nine basis points the week before.

The cheap pricing relates to how thinly traded the secondary market is due to low inventories among U.S. dealers. Banks have trimmed inventories to historic lows as they prepare for a regulatory overhaul. This makes it especially difficult for investors to purchase a large amount of bonds on a single day.

-By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382;

--Katy Burne contributed to this article.

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