Bank bonds have been largely spared the sell that has buffetted bank stocks. But the recent run-up in Tuesday bond yields may keep banks out of the debt market for the near term.
The rise in yields makes it more expensive for banks to issue debt.
After falling steadily for months, yields on U.S. government securities have reversed field in the past week, rising roughly 30 basis points for the medium- and long-term issues.
Measuring Cost Increase
"It is 30 to 40 basis points more expensive now than a month ago, mostly because of the Treasuries," said Ray Warner, an investment banker at Salomon Brothers Inc.
"People will wait for the return of a more favorable tone to the marketplace," he added. "Unless you get some rousing rally in the bond market, there's nothing to spark a major rally in spreads or issuance."
The bond markets have been a major source of funding for banks in the past year, as they took advantage of the lowest yields in 20 years as well as improved investor sentiment toward their industry. In the first half, banks issued about $17 billion in debt.
Republic New York Corp., Banc One Corp., Bankers Trust New York Corp., BankAmerica Corp., and NBD Bancorp issued debt recently, at yield spreads comparable to their previous issues.
Watching and Waiting
But the slight increase of bank bond yields and the uncertainty about interest rates now are keeping some banks on the sidelines.
"We aren't rushing to issue," said Peter Manning, chief financial officer of Bank of Boston Corp. "We are waiting for appropriate market conditions, and we haven't made a determination of what we will do near term."
Bank of Boston recently filed a shelf registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $750 million in debt.
The rise in yields at banks has been small, and in some cases, the yield spread to Treasuries has even narrowed.
Yields on Citicorp bonds rose an average of 10 basis points last week on news that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with regulators.
However, Citicorp debt securities soon settled down. For example, in August, the yield on its 9.5% notes due in 1992 rose just one basis point, to 7.85%, and the spread to Treasuries narrowed to 112 basis points, from 114, according to Moody's Investors Service.
BankAmerica Corp.'s 7.75% notes due in 1992 have been harder hit. The company, which recently filed a shelf registration with the SEC for $3 billion in debt securities, saw the yield on these notes rise by 6 basis points, to 7.64%, and the spread widen by 4 basis points, to 91.
The rise yields "won't necessarily discourage banks from issuing debt," said William King, a fixed-asset analyst at Merrill Lynch & Co. "The absolute level of rates is very low."
"We think new-issue spreads will be stable with prior issues as long as the bond market stays flat," said Catherine R. Brady, a vice president at Salomon.