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Quality issuers: Frequent issuers prosper through innovation

The world's largest non-sovereign borrowers made further efforts to position their bonds as alternatives to increasingly rare sovereign issues in 2000. Futures on US agency bonds began trading, borrowers stuck to calendars in volatile markets and embraced the internet.

In 2000 the two largest non-sovereign issuers were once again the big US mortgage agencies, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. The sheer size of their funding requirements is breathtaking. Freddie Mac's issuance programme alone totalled $935 billion last year, of which $9 billion equivalent was issued as part of its euro reference notes programme.

The agencies' adherence to detailed issuance calendars enhanced their bonds' usefulness for traders and others in hedging interest rate risk. The growth of futures markets on their bonds reinforces their status as alternatives to government bonds. That's just as well because the agencies faced tough questions from the US congress and from investors about their true credit status and degree of government support.

For supranationals innovation last year centred around the application of internet technology to the primary bond markets, with the European Investment Bank and the World Bank in particular making great efforts to jump on the e-trading bandwagon.

Jerome Lienhard, senior vice-president of global funding at Freddie Mac, sums up the main features of 2000. "The year began with a couple of key things for us," he says. "It was the first time that we brought out a precise issuance calendar for the year, where we outlined the monthly issuance in terms of size, maturity, timing of the settlement and such.

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