What does “high yield” mean in 2013? How about seven-year paper yielding less than 3 per cent? It sounds as distant from the macho returns of Drexel Burnham’s eighties “junk bond” market as smartphones are from Gordon Gekko’s brick-sized cellphone.
Fresenius, the German dialysis and hospitals group, has just sold €500-million ($656-million) of bonds paying 2.875 per cent. That looks like a record low yield for Europe’s high-yield market. The company is a trusted repeat borrower, with the highest possible non-investment grade rating, but this is only an extreme case of a general trend. Average yields on European junk bonds have almost halved in a year, to 5.2 per cent, while issuance volumes have broken records.