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Machines Trading $400 Billion of Bonds as Humans Retreat

A record share of U.S. corporate-bond trading has moved to computers as buyers who traditionally transacted over the phone seek faster ways to buy and sell in a market where Wall Street’s human traders are retreating.

Investment-grade volumes on MarketAxess Holdings Inc.’s electronic system are on pace to exceed $400 billion in 2013 after surging 45 percent to $44 billion in September from a year earlier, according to data from the company, which estimates it captures about 90 percent of electronic trades among the dollar-denominated notes. That’s equal to 14.3 percent of all market activity, including business done over the phone, up from 12.2 percent a year earlier.