NEW YORK – Lenders from JPMorgan Chase & Co. to General Electrics finance unit are leading a resurgence of bond sales tied to credit-card payments as relative funding costs drop to the lowest in five years.
Card issuers have sold $21 billion of the bonds this year through August, the most in two years and up from $4.8 billion during the same period in 2011, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. JPMorgan, the largest U.S. bank by assets, has offered $5.35 billion of the debt in 2012, triple the amount the New York lender sold in all of 2011, the data show.
Lenders are taking advantage of demand from investors betting on U.S. assets as a haven from Europes fiscal crisis, speculating the economy is growing enough to keep consumers current on their bills even with unemployment above 8 percent for a 42nd month.
Yields on top-ranked, five-year credit-card securities have narrowed to 18 basis points more than the one-month London interbank offered rate, the tightest level since 10 basis points in August 2007, Wells Fargo & Co. data show.
The revival is a rather opportunistic play on the part of card issuers able to refinance and, in some cases, extend the maturity of existing debt, said Christopher Sullivan, who oversees $2 billion as chief investment officer at United Nations Federal Credit Union in New York.
JPMorgan is returning to the market after the lender and other credit-card issuers all but abandoned it following 2010 regulations that scrapped capital relief that banks had obtained for such offerings. Issuance plunged to about $8 billion in 2010 and $10 billion last year, from a peak of $93 billion in 2007, Bloomberg data show. Wells Fargo analysts led by John McElravey forecast as much as $30 billion in 2012 sales.
The debt has proven remarkably strong, the Charlotte, N.C.-based analysts said in an Aug. 20 report. Credit-card payments that are 60 days or more past due fell to 1.72 percent last month from 1.78 percent in July, they said.
Elsewhere in credit markets, Cargill, the biggest U.S. agricultural company, raised $628 million from its first sale of bonds in the European currency since 2008. TPC Group will get $850 million of debt to fund its buyout by First Reserve and SK Capital Partners. Bancolombia, the South American nations largest bank, said its board approved a plan to sell as much as $1.2 billion of subordinated debt abroad.
The U.S. two-year interest-rate swap spread, a measure of debt market stress, narrowed for the fifth day, declining 0.77 basis point to 17.13 basis points, the lowest level since April 2011. The measure is down from this years high of 48.32 on Jan. 3.