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Goldman, Wells Fargo Lead Corp-Bond Issuance Pickup

By Patrick McGee Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Corporate bond issuance finally appears to be picking up, with Goldman Sachs Group (GS) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) tapping the U.S. credit markets Monday. Goldman is selling five-year paper and Wells Fargo is borrowing three-year debt, each with a "benchmark"-size, which means at least $500 million depending on buyer appetite. An investor familiar with the issues said the Goldman deal received $3 billion of orders by 11:15 a.m. EDT. He said pricing guidance is heading towards 295 basis points over Treasurys, while Wells could offer a spread of 130 basis points. Goldman's 3.625% bonds due 2016 traded Friday at a spread of 261 basis points, according to MarketAxess. Wells' 1.25% notes due 2015 traded at an 80 basis point spread. Colgate-Palmolive Co. (CL) is also in the market with a $500 million deal of 10-year notes. According to syndicate desks arranging corporate bond deals, upwards of $20 billion of high-grade debt is expected to be offered this week as U.S. companies exit the earning-related blackout period and focus on capital plans. The last four weeks have seen an average $9.4 billion get sold, down from an average of more than $23 billion in the first-quarter, according to data provider Dealogic. Light supply coupled with strong earnings has allowed corporate bond spreads--the extra yield offered over safe-haven Treasurys--to remain stable recently, according to J.P. Morgan strategists in a weekly research note. But, the strategists noted, fading earnings news, incoming supply, and likely bank downgrades from Moody's Investors Service could keep spreads from tightening. "It appears investors are generally comfortable with their positions and are awaiting more surprising developments than those which have come through recently to push spreads one way or the other," the strategists wrote. They said a neutral outlook "is logical given the valuation and uncertainties on macro issues beyond high-grade credit." Average corporate bond yields are at 3.29%, just 0.02 percentage point from the all-time low reached in early March, according to the Barclays U.S. investment-grade index, which dates to 1973. The spread over Treasurys was 1.87 points on Friday, versus 1.82 in early March. -By Patrick McGee, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2382; patrick.mcgee@dowjones.com

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