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Corporate Bonds Tripling Since 2000 Shows Investors’ Appetite

Companies issued $3.2 trillion in bonds in 2013, more than triple the $900 billion in 2000, as they sought to fill funding gaps left by decreasing bank lending.

Central banks have stoked investor demand for corporate debt by keeping base interest rates at record lows, the Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions said in a report published today. Bonds issued by non-financial companies are seen as “reasonably safe investments that still offer some yield.” The size of the corporate bond market in total hit $49 trillion in 2013.

Central banks have kept interest rates at low levels to stimulate economic growth in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. The Bank of England last week kept its key interest rate at 0.5 percent, where it’s been since March 2009.

“Growth in loan provision by banks to non-financial firms in the U.S. and Europe declined markedly after the onset of the crisis,” IOSCO said. “This contrasted with strong growth of corporate bond markets outstanding for non-financial firms.”

High-yield corporate bonds had a default rate of 3 percent globally in 2012, IOSCO said, compared with 4 percent for non-performing bank loans.

Corporate debt issuance will continue to grow, partly to service the existing outstanding bonds. Around $11.3 trillion worth of bonds will mature over the next seven years, IOSCO said in the report.

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