Sales of new bond issues, spurred by the lowest interest rates in years, soared to $150.09 billion through November, placing 1991 on the threshold of the second biggest volume ever, according to figures compiled by Securities Data Co./Bond Buyer.
This year's $150.09 billion bond total through November is 32% higher than the year-earlier volume of $113.79 billion.
At the same time, short-term note issuance already is the second highest on record, having risen 21% to $39.54 billion from $32.67 billion a year ago. The record year remains 1982, when $43.39 billion of notes were sold.
When bond and note sales are combined, 1991 stands as the second-biggest year in history, with $189.63 billion. The only year to exceed this year's total is 1985, when $223.77 billion of municipal debt -- $204.28 billion long-term and $19.49 billion short-term -- was brought to market.
Securities Data's figures are preliminary and subject to revision. The long-term figures are based on securities with final stated maturities of 13 months or longer and the short-term figures on securities maturing in 12 months or less. Private placements are included, but not remarketings of outstanding debt and taxable issues sold by private nonprofit organizations, such as private college and electric cooperatives.
Low interest rates gave substantial impetus for issuers to bring refundings to market. Refundings jumped 64%, to $36.08 billion from $22.01 billion last year. Rates were attractive for new-money issues, as well, as they rose 24%, to $114.01 billion from $91.78 billion. While municipal bond yields rose some-what in November, they are less than 20 basis points above their lows of early October, which were their lowest levels in more than four-and-a-half years.
New-issue volume rose for every general purpose except housing. The biggest gain, in terms of dollar volume, continued to be in general-purpose and multipurpose issues, which advanced $14.01 billion, or 52%, to $41.21 billion from $27.2 billion the year before.
Education remained the leading specific purpose for bond sales, rising 16%, to $23.12 billion from $19.95 billion. However, its share of overall volume declined to 15% from 18%. The increase came in primary and secondary education, which jumped 31%, to $14.97 billion from $11.47 billion a year earlier, and in student loan bonds, which rose 54%, to $1.56 billion from $1.01 billion. Higher education, on the other hand, fell 13%, to $6.45 billion from $7.44 billion.
Utilities were the second-leading purpose, reporting a 65% jump in volume, to $16.44 billion from $9.94 billion a year ago. That increased the sector's market share to 11% from 9%.
Solid increases were also posted in health care, which rose 26%, to $15.78 billion from $12.5 billion; transportation, which jumped 38%, to $15.51 billion from $11.17 billion; electric power, which skyrocketed 75%, to $7.79 billion from $4.45 billion; public facilities, such as government offices and recreation, which rose 39%, to $7.36 billion from $5.3 billion; environmental projects, up 27%, to $5.61 billion from $4.42 billion; and industrial development, up 28%, to $5.44 billion from $4.25 billion last year.
The transportation sector got a major boost from the New Jersey Turnpike Authority, which brought a $1.64 billion issue to market in late November. This was the largest issue for the year to date and the second largest on record, exceeded only by the turnpike authority's $2 billion colossus of November 1985.
Housing was the only specific purpose to show a decline from 1990, dropping 19%, to $11.84 billion from $14.56 billion. Virtually all of the decline was in single-family housing, which fell 23%, to $9.03 billion from $11.69 billion.
Sales of taxable municipal bonds soared 80% through November, to $3.3 billion from $1.83 billion a year ago. Bonds subject to the alternative minimum tax plunged 35%, to $11.07 billion from $17.05 billion, primarily because of the 23% decline in single-family housing sales and a 14% drop in airport issues.
Variable-rate financing was off 8%, to $9.71 billion from $10.59 billion.
Issues backed by bond insurance soared 55%, to $45.83 billion from $29.54 billion. Insured bonds' share of the overall market rose to 31% from 26% a year ago.
Other credit enhancements showed substantial declines. Bonds secured by letters of credit, which are usually variable-rate securities, dropped 43%, to $6.18 billion from $10.8 billion. Issues backed by insured mortgages or collateralized by mortgage securities, which are primarily housing bonds, fell 25%, to $3.79 billion from $5.03 billion.
California remained the most active state for municipal bond sales in the first 11 months of 1991, with a 53% jump, to $22.19 billion from $14.55 billion last year. New York came in second with $17.49 billion, up 18% from $14.78 billion last year, as New York City brought $1.27 billion of general obligation bonds to market in November.
Coming in a distant third was Texas, up 72%, to $9.98 billion from $5.81 billion. Pennsylvania was fourth, more than doubling its volume to $8.79 billion from $4.2 billion, and Florida was fifth with a 71% increase, to $8.23 billion from $4.8 billion.