Junk bond issuance began to stir last week as issuers and investors picked up where they had left off before the holiday season.
At least eight new high-yield issues had priced by Thursday. And underwriters were predicting that the market would shortly see about 40 new issues, valued at $6 billion, as companies that delayed transactions in December finish up road shows and hit the market.
The environment continues to welcome companies seeking funding in the high-yield market. Given low interest rates and an abundance of cash-rich investors, "issuers have the opportunity to lower the cost of their debt," said Richard Miller, head of high-yield research at BancBoston Securities Inc., the investment banking unit of BankBoston Corp.
"There's a very good market tone," said investor Gary Goodenough, who manages the New England High-Income Fund.
In fact, Merrill Lynch & Co. completed a $150 million offering for Allbritton Communications Co., a Washington-based owner of television stations with just a phone call-no road show was needed. BancBoston co- managed the deal.
With the market so hot, this kind of quick execution is popping up more and more, especially for issuers already in the market or doing add-on financing.
Collateralized bond obligations, pension funds, and insurance companies are allocating more money to buy high-yield bonds, continuing to drive immense demand for the securities. Foreign and investment-grade investors are also developing a larger appetite for high-yield, Mr. Miller said.
Still, some clouds are gathering. Though interest rates are not a worry for the time being, there is concern that the domestic economy will slow, Mr. Miller said.
"We've had seven great years of economic activity," he said, "and there is a lot of uncertainty about what the emerging-markets currency crisis is going to do to corporate earnings and cash flow."