BankAmerica Corp. came to market Thursday with a three-year yen- denominated note issue, turning to investors that have not been tapped recently by U.S. banks.
Analysts speculated that the bank was trying to match the debt to yen- denominated assets on its books.
The roughly $57 million offering was BankAmerica's second set of foreign notes of the week. The company issued $200 million of Euoronotes on Monday.
U.S. banks issued fewer bonds into the foreign markets between 1991 and 1993, when they carried lower credit ratings, but that has changed in the past year.
"Bank's credit ratings were generally too low for them to be effective issuers into the Euromarket," said John Works, a fixed-income analyst at J.P. Morgan & Co. "Now that they're perceived as strong and getting stronger, it gives them more access to a market where buyers are more quality-conscious."
In the U.S. market, analysts have noticed that spreads have widened about 5 basis points in the past week for bank bonds, along with the corporate sector in general.
"Almost everything is widening," said Michael Leit, a fixed-income analyst at Prudential Securities Inc..
While banks' capital levels do not mandate a spate of new issues, banks have been opportunistic by issuing 10-year notes that take advantage of their relatively tight spreads. The tighter the spread on a bond, the cheaper it is for the issuer.
Even at slightly wider spreads, however, analysts expect continued issuance.
BankAmerica was joined in marketing bonds this week by Norwest Corp. and National City Corp.
Norwest issued $200 million of seven-year notes, priced at 99.838 for a yield to maturity of 6.83%. The noncallable notes were priced at 43 basis points over comparable Treasuries. The notes received a AA rating from Duff & Phelps Credit Rating Co..
Medium-term notes, like Norwest's, have funded loan growth.
On Wednesday, National City issued $250 million of 10-year subordinated notes. The notes are noncallable and have a coupon of 7.20% at 99.884 to yield 7.216%. Duff & Phelps rated the notes A-plus.