While the government market was closed yesterday in observance of Veterans' Day, at least some corporate bond traders manned their desks.
"We're here," one high-grade trader said, adding that nothing really moved. "A lot of it's just retail stuff."
"It's technically open, but in reality its closed," another trader said. "There's no government market to trade off." he said.
The second trader said that many accounts had the day off as well.
The first trader noted that the New York Stock Exchange's Fixed Income Markets division was open yesterday.
"We're trading corporates," an exchange spokeswoman said.
The NYSE fixed income markets unit is comprised mostly of U.S. corporate issues but includes debt of foreign corporations and governments as well as U.S. government issues, she said.
As for the primary market, a $150 million Chevy Chase Savings Bank deal is rumored to be on deck for next week through Merrill Lynch & Co. A Merrill Lynch spokeswoman declined comment.
Veteran's Day found "absolutely nothing" happening in the junk market, one trader said.
"It's as quiet as can be," he said. Many participants are attending a Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette Securities Corp. conference in Las Vegas, he said. The trader noted weakness in Nextel bonds, which he found puzzling considering recent positive developments.
Nextel Communications in a release earlier this week said that it had created "the nation's largest wireless network capable of offering advanced, all-digital integrated communications -- the wireless portion of an information superhighway."
The company said it is acquiring licenses for more than 2,500 radio frequencies in 21 states from Motorola Inc. In return, Motorola would get a 20% stake in Nextel.
Elsewhere yesterday, a Fitch Investors Service Inc. report said that a record $84 billion of corporate bonds were called this year through October.
If interest rates remain stable, another $70 billion of bonds are vulnerable to call by yearend, a Fitch release said. However, more than $632 billion of noncallable bonds are outstanding. The figure represents three-quarters of all investment-grade issues, the release says.
"This forms a safety net protecting investors against unexpected calls," Fitch's release says.
Roughly 3,800 noncallable investment-grade corporate bonds are outstanding, according to the ongoing study by Fitch and Andrew Kalotay Associates. One-third of the bonds are rated A, and nearly half were issued by industrials, banks, or finance companies, the report said.
The noncallable bonds have an average coupon of 7.97%. Though the average is below the 8.28% average coupon for bonds called in the third quarter, 27% of all bonds called this year bore interest rates below 8%, the release says.
Bond calls this year have already beaten 1992's total of $67 billion.
The noncallable bonds have an average maturity of slightly more than 12 years, but the utility and telephone sectors have far outpaced the average, with utilities averaging 17 years and telephones averaging 20.
The Fitch report noted that with interest rates at current levels, many noncallable bonds are candidates for tender offers and open market repurchase programs in which the issuer pays a premium, the release says.
"However, the high prices necessary to buy back these bonds could deter issuers," the release says. Investors are subject to capital gains taxes on their profits, the release says.
"Therefore, noncallable issues will probably continue to pay interest to bondholders until maturity," the report says.
Moody's Investors Service is reviewing Walt Disney Corp.'s long-term debt ratings for a possible downgrade.
"The review was prompted by Moody's concern that the recent acceleration of heavy losses at Walt Disney Company's 49%-owned Euro Disney theme park could result in deterioration of debt protection measurements for Walt Disney Co. bond-holders," a Moody's release says. The rating agency also confirmed Walt Disney's short-term commercial paper rating at Prime- 1.
Moody's is reviewing the company's senior unsecured notes, debentures, and medium-term notes program, rated Aa3, and the senior unsecured shelf rating of (P)Aa3.