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Light Issuance Puts US Bond Market Focus on Secondaries

By Patrick McGee Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Only one issuer opted to come to the U.S. bond market with new debt on Tuesday, despite a fairly positive tone to the market early morning. PPL Energy Supply LLC (PPL) sold $500 million of 10-year, 4.60% coupon notes at a yield of 4.604%, for a spread of 262.5 basis points over Treasurys. When the deal was first marketed, it was for $350 million. The issue could plausibly be the final investment-grade marketing of 2011. Syndicate desks said issuers tapping the market this late in the year are opportunistic borrowers rather than ones in dire need of funding, and with the secondary market weakening in the afternoon after the Federal Reserve said global market strains "continue to pose significant downside risks to the economic outlook," few issuers will feel invited to try their luck later in the week. "It's still up the up in the air -- nobody has ruled anything out at this point," said a syndicate manager in New York. "Accounts still have cash to put to work and if an opportunistic issuer offered some paper, there are buyers that would jump at the chance to own a name at this point." The manager said the afternoon selloff in equities isn't going to boost spirits among potential issuers, but he added that overseas news is driving the market and people could wake up in a completely different mood Wednesday. "The market could get a little bit of positive news and we could come in tomorrow guns a-blazing," he said. "So I would say every day could be an opportunistic funding opportunity." A benchmark gauge of the U.S. corporate-bond market, Markit's CDX North America Investment-Grade Index, had deteriorated 1.5% as of 4:30 p.m EST. At the start of the day it had improved 1.3%, and it initially remained positive after a weaker-than-anticipated U.S. retail sales report. Trading of individual bonds appeared less bearish though, and activity was robust with $10.5 billion of trading volume as of 4:30 p.m. EST, compared to Monday's all-day total of $7.96 billion, according to MarketAxess. Active paper included Morgan Stanley's 5.5% coupon bonds due 2021, which improved 10 basis points against comparable Treasurys, although they had fallen 29 basis points compared to levels one week ago. Gains were also seen on actively traded bonds issued by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), AT&T Inc. (T), and Hewlett Packard Co. (HPQ). "Because of the lack of supply, we are seeing some trades getting done," the syndicate source said. "Portfolio managers are spending more time in the secondary market, looking at relative value as opposed to focusing on the new issue calendar." -By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382; patrick.mcgee@dowjones.com

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