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Investment-Grade Corporate Bond Sales in U.S. Set a Record

By Katy Burne Companies rushed Monday to issue $10 billion of investment-grade bonds in the U.S., tapping a spigot of cheap debt and taking issuance for the month of July to its highest level since at least 1995, according to data provider Dealogic. The $58.9 billion in issuance so far this month surpasses the previous record high for a July of $57.4 billion in 2010, said Dealogic, whose data go back to 1995. On its own, Monday was the second-busiest day in terms of volume this month, as companies came off the sidelines after sensing a rosier outlook among investors--and hurried to borrow before labor-market data due later this week or other macroeconomic sore spots could spoil investors' moods. "There is a lot of potential volatility over the near term, so you have a very compelling argument to take money now, given the upcoming [presidential] elections, the fiscal cliff and the problems in Greece," said Paul Spivack, global head of debt syndicate at Morgan Stanley. Issuers were enticed to market by recent offerings by other companies at some of the lowest borrowing costs in their history. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) Friday sold 10-year bonds with a 1.95% coupon, its lowest ever, for example, and International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) Wednesday sold 10-year bonds with a 1.875% coupon, a record low for investment-grade issuers in that maturity. "Every deal that prices seems to set a new record, and even when it doesn't, it sets a new low for that company," Mr. Spivack said. Leading the pack Monday were Teck Resources Ltd. (TCK), with a $1.75 billion debt sale; Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN), with a $1.5 billion sale; and Campbell Soup Co. (CBP), with a $1.25 billion deal to help pay for its acquisition of Bolthouse Farms. Teck's offering was split into three pieces: $500 million of five-and-a-half-year notes launched at 1.95 percentage points over comparable Treasurys; $750 million of 10.5-year bonds at 2.35 points and $500 million of long 30-year bonds at 2.85 points over Treasurys. Texas Instruments offered three-year notes at 0.30 point over Treasurys and seven-year notes at a spread of 0.75 point. Campbell Soup's debt came in three parts: a $400 million tranche of two-year, floating-rate debt launched at 0.30 point over the London interbank offered rate; a $450 million, 10-year fixed-rate piece launched at 1.08 points over Treasurys and $400 million of 30-year debt at a spread of 1.28 points over Treasurys. Separately, Unilever Capital Corp., a unit of Unilever N.V. (UN) and Unilever PLC (UL), split a $1 billion sale between $450 million of three-year debt that priced at 0.27 point over Treasurys and $550 million of five-year notes at 0.47. Both were on track to set record-low coupons for the household-products industry of 0.45% and 0.85%, respectively, across those maturities. Also in the market Monday were Brazilian bank Itau Unibanco Holding SA (ITUB) for $1.25 billion; TransCanada PipeLines Ltd. (TRP) for $1 billion; Mexican wireless company America Movil SAB (AMOV) for $750 million; and three domestic companies: industrial-gases provider Praxair Inc. (PX), wealth-management company Northern Trust Corp. (NTRS) and beauty-care company Estee Lauder Cos. (EL), each for $500 million. Write to Katy Burne at katy.burne@dowjones.com Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

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