UPDATE 2-Canada taps U.S. dollar bond market for first time since pandemic

(Adds strategist quote and details on offering)

TORONTO, May 11 (Reuters) – Canada has tapped an international bond market for the first time since before the coronavirus crisis, selling $3.5 billion of a 5-year U.S. dollar global bond in a move that could pad its foreign exchange reserves, a term sheet showed on Tuesday.

The bond, which pays a 0.750% coupon, was priced at 6 basis points over the U.S. Treasury benchmark, matching the spread achieved for Canada’s last global bond issue in January 2020.

That could signal Canada’s bonds remain attractive to international investors despite Ottawa borrowing heavily since the start of the crisis to finance historically large budget deficits.

“The strong performance of the deal” reflects the market’s reach for yield in an environment of low global interest rates, said Gennadiy Goldberg, a senior U.S. rates strategist at TD Securities.

“Issuing a global bond provides funds to supplement and diversify Canada’s liquid foreign reserves,” Canada’s Department of Finance said on Monday.

Most of Canada’s borrowing is in Canadian dollars. Its total market debt is projected to climb to C$1.3 trillion ($1.08 trillion) in the fiscal year ending next March, up about 80% since before the crisis, while debt as a share of GDP is set to climb to 51.2%, its highest since 1999, a budget document last month showed.

Fitch Ratings stripped Canada of one of its coveted triple-A credit ratings last June but S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service still give Canadian debt the highest rating.

The Bank of Canada has been buying government bonds in the secondary market to help lower domestic borrowing costs. Last month, it cut the pace of purchases to C$3 billion a week from C$4 billion and sharply raised its growth forecast for the Canadian economy to 6.5% for 2021.

BMO Capital Markets Corp, BofA Securities, Inc, J.P. Morgan Securities Plc, Scotia Capital (USA) Inc and TD Securities (USA) LLC, were lead-managers for the deal, the term sheet showed.

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