US economy

Japan’s First Minus-Yield Agency Bond Prices as Rates Plunge

(Bloomberg) — A Japanese agency priced a bond with a negative yield for the first time, in a sign that such debt sales may increase in the nation amid the global tumble in interest rates.

Japan Student Services Organization priced 30 billion yen ($281 million) of two-year notes with a coupon of 0.001% and a price of 100.003 yen, working out to a yield of around minus 0.0005%. While government-backed organizations have sold debt yielding less than zero in auctions in the past, this was the first public offering of such a bond by an agency, Bloomberg-compiled data showed.

Around $17 trillion of debt has negative yields worldwide as central banks loosen monetary policy in the face of a global economic slowdown. While those notes will cause losses for investors if held to maturity, there’s demand for the bonds among Japanese buyers hoping to sell them if yield premiums fall, and those that want to park their money in highly-rated debt for the short term, analysts say.

“JASSO set an example that a negative-yielding product could appeal to some investors,” said Shunsuke Oshida, a senior credit analyst at Manulife Asset Management in Tokyo. “Since there is demand, more such agency bonds will likely follow suit.”

The Tokyo-based organization, which is involved in offering scholarships and student exchange programs, has an AAA grade from Japan Credit Rating Agency and an AA score from Rating & Investment Information.

Regional Japanese banks were one of the major investors in the bonds, according to the deal’s underwriters.

(Updates with note that regional banks were big investors in final paragraph)

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