Equipment maker Caterpillar Inc. (CAT) hit the U.S. debt markets Thursday with a $1.5 billion, three-part bond offering, enamored by low benchmark interest rates and seizing on a rare window of opportunity for borrowing with hopes of a coordinated solution to Europe's debt crisis.
The deal comprises three-, five- and 10-year notes and is being led by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citigroup Inc. (C) and J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM). Proceeds will be used for general corporate purposes.
On Wednesday, safe-haven Treasurys, to which corporate debt is benchmarked, rallied because the Federal Reserve said it would extend a form of stimulus that became known as "Operation Twist" through December, after it originally was scheduled to end this month.
The Fed also left the door open for a further round of quantitative easing. "QE3 is still very much on the table," said Anthony Valeri, investment strategist in fixed income for LPL Financial, who put the chances of the Fed launching a fresh bond-buying spree later this year at 60%.
Weaker-than-expected weekly jobless claims data also gave a boost to Treasurys. An index tracking the health of highly rated corporate bonds, called the CDX North American Investment Grade index, was 1.8% improved on the day, according to index administrator Markit.
Caterpillar bonds were off to a strong start in secondary trade this session, with the company's 2.85% bonds due June 2022 trading at 0.91 percentage point over comparable Treasurys, a risk premium that was 0.16 point narrower than Wednesday's levels, according to MarketAxess.
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