Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Economy: Money For Nothing?

The financial markets are shaky and the sentiment is very bad. Many funds and individuals avoid risky assets like stocks and prefer cash and bonds. The U.S. government benefits from this "flight to safety" mentality because they are paying now record low interest rates for their debts. But they are not alone. Large multinational companies also are getting  "money for nothing", writes "The Economist" (economist).

Last week, Unilever, the large European food conglomerate, sold $550 million worth of 5-year notes with a coupon (interest rate) of just 0.85%, reports the service "Business Insider" (businessinsider.com). This is the lowest ever borrowing cost for U.S. debt. And the chip giant Texas Instrument has broken a record for the lowest coupon on 3-year debt at just 0.45%, adds "Business Insider".  A week earlier IBM had raised ten-year money at a rate of just 1.875% (economist). 

These low borrowing costs are a sign of strength! Every borrower has to pay a premium to compensate the borrower for the risks, meaning the possible default of bond amortization and interest payments. The higher the risk the more interest a creditor has to offer, which you can see at the high rates of Greek debts and other junk bonds. The very low interest rates for some company bonds show that these assets are treated like "safe havens". This doesn´t fit to the drivel about an approaching global recession, which would hinder the  multinationals to service their debts.

The low borrowing costs also are a huge advantage for the big companies. They are getting very cheap capital to invest, almost "money for nothing". The cheap credits are an incentive for them to put more money on profitable products and to expand their markets. Therefore the record lows for company bonds are a stimulus for the global economy and maybe are more important than an additional monetary stimulus by the U.S. central bank  (QE3), that many are betting on now.

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