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Robust Corporate Bond Issuance Is Approaching Weekly Record

By Patrick McGee Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Eight investment grade companies, including Simon Property Group Inc. (SPG) and Xerox Corp. (XRX), tapped the corporate bond market Thursday, building on what is already the busiest week for new issues so far this year. At least $6.15 billion of new bonds are on offer, on top of $30.9 billion sold through Wednesday, according to data provider Dealogic. That tops the previous busiest week, in late January, when $28.8 billion were sold, and is closing in on the 2011 record week of $37.1 billion. The all-time high of $42.9 billion was set in mid-March 2009, according to Dealogic, which has data back to 1995. Companies big and small, high-grade and low, are coming out of blackout earnings periods and issuing debt to take advantage of record-low yields. The Barclays Capital investment-grade corporate bond index finished Wednesday at 3.33%, up 0.06 percentage points from the all-time low reached last week, but still below any rate between 1973, when the index was created, and 2011. Investor demand should remain high as new deals continue to trade well entering the secondary market. Nine of the top 10 most actively traded bonds are improving versus Treasurys, including a 0.16 percentage point tightening in the risk premium on Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) 10-year notes that were issued Wednesday, according to MarketAxess. "The market tone continues to be constructive, and issuers are taking advantage of it before any potential headwinds from Europe or Friday's nonfarm payrolls report," said Ryan Newth, director of syndicate at SunTrust Robinson Humphrey. Simon Property Group's three-part, $1.5 billion offering is the largest deal so far Thursday, but Xerox and URS Corp. (URS) haven't set sizes on their benchmark two-part deals. "Benchmark" typically means at least $500 million per tranche. Xerox plans to offer 18-month floating-rate notes and five-year fixed-rate bonds, while URS, an engineering firm and federal government contractor, is selling five- and 10-year notes. Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance has already launched a $1.3 billion, 60-year subordinate bond deal after a marketing period yesterday. The privately placed notes are being sold in the Rule 144A/Reg S market, which is only open to qualified investors outside the U.S. Companies issuing smaller deals include Genworth Financial Inc. (GNW), the New York unit of Consolidated Edison Inc. (ED), Edison International's (EIX) Southern California Edison, and the operating unit of natural gas company DCP Midstream Partners, LP (DPM). A positive market tone should help the deals get priced. Markit's CDX North America Investment-Grade Index, a measure of health for the market, improved 1.4% in early-afternoon trading. -By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382; patrick.mcgee@dowjones.com

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