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Companies Borrow $9 Billion in Unusually Busy Corporate-Bond Market

By Katy Burne and Al Yoon Companies led by tobacco company Altria Group (MO) flooded the U.S. investment-grade corporate-bond market Monday, seeking to borrow more than $9 billion as last week's jitters over central-bank moves recede in the rearview mirror. The issuance tally is the biggest day for highly rated corporate bonds since July 30, when $10 billion of the debt was sold and the month's total supply was the busiest July on record, according to data provider Dealogic. Altria's $2.8 billion deal is the biggest since eBay Inc. (EBAY) sold $3 billion of bonds on July 19, according to Standard & Poor's unit LCD data. The day's tally isn't just busy by daily standards, it's also one of the most active days for a weekday in August, when deal volume typically slows due to summer vacations. Many companies are bringing deals because Monday saw little in the way of new headlines to shake investors' confidence, pulling forward issuance that otherwise might have waited until after Labor Day. New deals keep hitting the market for two important reasons: yields on ultra-safe Treasury debt keep falling lower, pushing investors into riskier assets; at the same time, risk premiums on corporate bonds over Treasury benchmark rates have narrowed, shrinking all-in borrowing rates. "The technicals are so strong and the supply-demand imbalance is so in focus that investors are seeing the new-issue market burst to life," said Jonny Fine, head of investment-grade debt syndicate at Goldman Sachs. Altria sold 10- and 30-year bonds at yields of 2.863% and 4.325%, respectively, or 1.30 and 1.68 percentage points over comparable Treasurys. Energy services company Enterprise Products Operating LLC sold $1.75 billion of three- and 30-year debt at a premium of 0.95 percentage point and 1.85 percentage points, respectively, over Treasurys. Also in the market was biopharmaceutical company Celgene Corp. (CELG), which raised $1.5 billion split between five- and 10-year bonds; Westpac Banking Corp. (WBC.AU, WBK), which raised $1.25 billion of five-year debt; and Ecolab Inc. (ECL) and Omnicom Group (OMC), with $500 million each. The Ecolab debt matures in three years, and the Omnicom notes mature in 10 years. Write to Katy Burne at katy.burne@dowjones.com and Al Yoon at albert.yoon@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

Stock News for Altria (MO)
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