Markets

Lisa Abramowicz is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering the debt markets. She has written about debt markets for Bloomberg News since 2010.

A funny thing happened on the way to economic growth: Top-rated corporate bonds increasingly became interchangeable with sovereign debt.

This is strange because companies are not governments. They don't collect taxes or print money. But big companies like Apple and Anheuser-Busch InBev arguably have much better balance sheets than many countries, and some central bankers have started buying corporate bonds to stimulate their regions' economies.

Besides, the company bonds offer a smidgen more yield than the sovereign debt of developed countries. So it's not surprising that yields on corporate debt globally have dropped to a record low of 2.2 percent.

Slippery Slope
Corporate bond yields have fallen to record lows in the wake of central bank stimulus
Source: The BofA Merrill Lynch Global Corporate Index

Or that investors are demanding the smallest premium to own the company notes compared with government debt in more than a year.

Shrinking Difference
Investors are accepting less extra yield to own corporate bonds versus government debt
Source: Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data

Or that investment-grade bond funds have seen some record inflows.

Bond Boom
Investors have been pouring cash into investment-grade bond funds in recent months
Source: Bloomberg

Or that companies, including Apple and Anheuser-Busch, have been selling debt at an accelerating clip.

Debt Grab
Apple has been selling bonds at an accelerating pace as bond yields drop
Source: Bloomberg
2016 data is year to date

There's a good chance that corporate-bond yields will continue to fall as money continues to flood toward the debt. After all, it's easy to see the attraction for pensions and insurers looking for worthy investments amid a $13.4 trillion sea of negative-yielding bonds.

But the longer this trend continues, the more countries' economies become intertwined with the fortunes of huge corporations. And despite investor sentiment, the interests of nations don't always align with those of companies.   

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Lisa Abramowicz in New York at labramowicz@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Daniel Niemi at dniemi1@bloomberg.net