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Old 11-26-2003, 07:05   #1 (permalink)
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E.U.:Ford gains make automaker bonds Europe's leaders

Global News Report
Free Press and Bloomberg News

LONDON -- Carmakers' bonds are poised to be the best performers in Europe in November, led by Ford Motor Co., on optimism its credit rating won't be downgraded to junk anytime soon. A rating cut would force many investors to sell.

The Merrill Lynch Consumer Cyclical Index, 90 percent of which is euro-denominated debt sold by car or auto-parts makers, returned 0.58 percent this month, the best of any industry. The premium, or spread, over government debt investors demand to buy the securities has shrunk by 0.15 percentage point since Oct. 31, more than other industry indexes.

Ford is one of the biggest corporate debtors, owing bondholders about $123 billion, Bloomberg data show. Standard & Poor's on Nov. 12 cut the company's rating one step to BBB-, the lowest investment grade and said its outlook on Ford is stable, indicating it isn't currently planning to change its view. A cut to junk would force many holders to sell the bonds.

"The stable outlook is good news," said Johnny de Buysscher, who helps manage the equivalent of $3.5 billion at Petercam Asset Management in Brussels. "Usually companies with a stable outlook stick there for a couple of years." He holds more Ford debt than the indexes against which his fund's performance is measured.
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