Capital Markets

Junk-Bond Market Smelling Better

Increasing interest in speculative-grade mutual funds, a narrowed spread between junk bonds and Treasuries, and a handful of new issues point the way.
Stephen TaubApril 25, 2008

Some signs are emerging that the junk-bond market is slowing coming back to life. Junk-bond mutual funds reported $294.6 million net inflows in the week ended Wednesday — the fourth-straight week of gains, according to AMG Data.

Since mid-March, when Bear Stearns collapsed, the spread between junk bonds and Treasuries has narrowed from an incredibly wide 860 basis points to 700 points. That is still well above the 240 point record-low spread in June 2007, however.

The narrowing of the junk-bond spread mirrors the overall growing appetite for risk among investors, underscored by the recent rally in the global stock markets. According to Bloomberg, four high-yield companies sold $2.85 million of debt this week, the most since the week ended November 30. They include FireKeepers Casino, which sold $340 million of seven-year senior secured notes at a yield of 13.875 percent, and Russian mobile-phone company OAO VimpelCom, which raised $2 billion in the country’s biggest sale of dollar-denominated debt.

Two other companies raised money on Thursday. Inergy LP added $200 million to its existing 8.25 percent senior notes, due in March 2016, in the private-placement market, according to Reuters, citing IFR Credit, a division of Thomson Reuters. The original deal was for $150 million. The new issue was rated B1 by Moody’s and B-plus by Standard & Poor’s.

Also on Thursday, CCS Inc., a provider of waste and environmental services, sold $312 million of seven-year senior notes in the private-placement market, according to Reuters. The issue, which has a coupon of 11 percent, was priced to yield 13.25 percent. It was rated Caa1 by Moody’s and B-minus by S&P.