Wall Street Predicts Corporate America's Bond Binge Will Go on

Will the Bull Market Continue in 2016?

Wall Street’s biggest dealers are forecasting that blue chip U.S. companies will sell more than $1 trillion of bonds for a fifth straight year in 2016 as corporate America’s borrowing binge endures beyond the end of the Federal Reserve’s zero-rate monetary policy.

Bank of America Corp. is predicting $1.22 trillion in issuance. The forecast from Morgan Stanley is $1.05 trillion, Wells Fargo & Co. foresees $1.24 trillion and Barclays Plc anticipates $1.34 trillion.

Bond sales by investment-grade companies reached a record $1.31 trillion this year, thanks to an unprecedented $469.8 billion in acquisition-related financing, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. With $627 billion in mergers expected to close in 2016, analysts like Bank of America’s Hans Mikkelsen expect more issuance is on the way.

“The pipeline of announced deals with a likely high-grade funding component remains large,” Mikkelsen, who heads U.S. investment-grade credit strategy at Bank of America, wrote in a Dec. 23 note to clients.

Companies are expected to take advantage of borrowing costs that remain historically low. Yields on investment-grade bonds reached a four-year high of 3.68 percent this month as the Fed boosted its benchmark rate for the first time in nearly a decade. But borrowing costs remain below the 4.49 percent average of the past 10 years, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch index data.

Investment-grade bond sales “are likely to remain robust in 2016” as “issuance trends favor companies at the upper end of the ratings spectrum,” Wells Fargo analysts George Bory and Nathaniel Rosenbaum wrote in a Dec. 18 note to clients.

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