Companies are borrowing $74 billion in the U.S.investment-grade bond market this week, the most for any comparableperiod since records began in 1972. Since Tuesday, corporationsincluding Coca-Cola Co., Walt Disney Co., and Apple Inc. have soldnotes as yields have dropped. And the frenzy isn't letting up.

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At least another $50 billion is projected for the rest of themonth, and the activity is spilling over to junk bonds andleveraged loans as well. With more than $16 trillion of bonds inEurope and Asia paying negative yields, investors worldwide aresnatching up debt that offers relatively higher returns, keepingdemand strong in the United States.

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"This is a great time for companies to refinance," ChristianHoffmann, a portfolio manager at Thornburg Investment Management,said. "Financing costs are near all-time lows, so I would not besurprised to see better high-yield companies coming to market andtreating debt capital markets like a cheap buffet."

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For investment-grade companies, the average yield on bonds was2.77 percent as of Wednesday, according to Bloomberg Barclays indexdata. In late November, that figure was above 4.3 percent. For acompany selling $1 billion of debt, that amounts to $15.3 millionof annual interest savings, before taxes. Junk-bond yields havedropped too, with notes rated in the BB tier, the uppermosthigh-yield levels, paying a near-record-low 4.07 percent.

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It's not clear how long that will last—on Thursday, U.S.Treasury yields surged, with the 10-year note jumping as much as0.12 percentage point, to 1.59 percent. But for now the bond salesare intense enough to make up for a year that had previously beenlackluster. Investment-grade issuance is now down just about 2percent from the same point last year. In June, the gap was closerto 13 percent.

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The recent spate of issuance is the latest surge in corporatedebt sales, as companies have ramped up their borrowings tobuy back shares and invest in new projects.Investment-grade debt outstanding totaled $5.8 trillion onWednesday, more than double the level a decade ago.

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The prior record for investment-grade bond issuance was $66billion in the week of Sept. 9, 2013, when Verizon CommunicationsInc. sold $49 billion of bonds in eight parts, the biggestcorporate debt offering ever. Companies now are by and largerefinancing maturing debt, instead of funding big new capitalprojects.

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The underwriting fees that the sales are generating are one ofthe few positives for bank profits that are expected to get hit byfalling rates. The refinancing can also translate into greatertrading revenues, said Bloomberg Intelligence analyst ArnoldKakuda.

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It's a stunning turnaround from late last year, when ScottMinerd, Guggenheim Partners' global chief investment officer,said a selloff inGeneral Electric Co. debt signaled that "the slide and collapse ininvestment grade credit has begun." While the investment-grademarket last year generated losses of 2.5 percent, this year it's up14.2 percent including both interest and price gains, making it oneof the best-performing assets in fixed income.

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In the leveraged-loan market, 17 deals totaling more than $16billion have launched this week, making it the busiest week sinceOctober. Investment-grade and high-yield bankers are tellingclients that the good times may not last.

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"If someone has near-term financing needs, they should belooking to take advantage of this window," said Jenny Lee, co-headof leveraged loan and high-yield capital markets at JPMorgan Chase& Co. "Things potentially could shut down or get more difficultas we head toward the back half of this year."

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