The New York State Comptroller's office announced yesterday it will refund $360 million of outstanding general obligation bonds later this month.
The refunding will be handled through an underwriting group led by the investment banking firms of Merrill Lynch & Co. and Goldman Sachs & Co.
The state will price a bond deal of just over $360 million to refund these securities that it issued between 1983 and 1985 at higher interest rates, according to an underwriter in the syndicate.
Officials in the state comptroller's office and the state Division of Budget are also examining the possibility of refunding bonds issued before 1983, said Robert R. Hinckley, a spokesman for state Comptroller Edward V. Regan.
The refunded bonds have maturities ranging from 1994 to 2015. The state will price the deal during the week of July 20.
The last time the state refunded bonds, in August 1986, it replaced $404 million in higher-coupon debt at lower interest rates with present value savings of $32 million, Mr. Hinckley said. He added that this year's savings would be "substantial," but refused to elaborate.
State finance officials and analysts who cover the state's credit market activities say there is nothing unusual about the refunding plan, given the historically low level of interest rates in the municipal bond arena.
Last Thursday, the Federal Reserve Board cut two keys levels of short-term credit, reducing its federal funds interest-rate target 50 basis points to 3 1/4% and the discount rate 50 basis points to 3%.
The generally low level of interest rates has had a significant impact on the municipal bond market. For example, the Bond Buyer's 20-bond index of general obligation bonds has declined to its lowest level in nearly 13 years, dropping four basis points last week, to 6.38% from 6.42%. The index is at its lowest level since Aug. 30, 1979, when it was at 6.36%.
The tax-exempt sector has also been bolstered by expectations of the July 1 call date, expected to produce $8 billion in municipal redemptions. Many market observers predicted that investors would replaced redeemed securities in the following weeks with newly issued notes and bonds.
"This is really a no-brainer, given the fact that the index is at a decade low," said Nicole Anderes, manager of research at Roosevelt & Cross Inc., an investment banking firm specializing in New York State credits. "This is a straightforward refunding."