GLOBAL MARKETS-Verizon sells record bond deal; gold down as Syria fears ease
* Apple shares slide, weigh on tech sector * Verizon sells $49 billion in bonds * Unlocking of hedges for Verizon deal supports Treasuries * U.S. dollar near seven-week peak against yen By Ellen Freilich NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Fixed-income investors gobbled up $49 billion in notes sold by Verizon, the largest-ever corporate bond sale in history, while global stocks rose modestly and gold hit a three-week low on Wednesday as Syria tensions eased. The reduced fears over Syria, after President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to explore a diplomatic plan by Russia to take away Syria's chemical weapons, were having a less pronounced effect on markets after several days of equity-market gains. Verizon Communications Inc's massive bond deal was sought by pension funds, endowments, institutional buyers and wealth managers hungry for higher-yielding securities. It comes at a time that many corporations and countries are rushing to sell debt as they expect long-term interest rates to rise when the U.S. Federal Reserve reduces its stimulus in coming months. The Fed will hold a policy meeting next week. Verizon sold the bonds to partly finance its $130 billion buyout of its wireless operations, Verizon Wireless, from Vodafone. "The sheer size of this deal is impressive in and of itself," said Bonnie Baha, who heads Global Developed Credit at DoubleLine. "It just goes to show that despite the specter of higher Treasury rates going forward, investor demand remains for attractively priced corporate credit deals." Underwriters of the Verizon deal exited hedges that they had put on in the last couple of days, undertaken to offset their exposure to the massive Verizon offering, supporting Treasuries prices. SYRIAN CONCERNS REMAIN Jitters over Syria have not been washed away entirely. Obama voiced skepticism about Russia's plan to take control of Syria's chemical arsenal and sought support for using force should diplomacy fail. "That is going to cause a little bit of angst, it won't cause the market to implode. The only reason that would happen is if these diplomatic efforts fail once again and the prospect of a real strike looms large again," said Ken Polcari, director of the NYSE floor division at O'Neil Securities in New York. The Federal Reserve's highly anticipated policy meeting next week, on Sept. 17-18, kept trading in check, with currency and the U.S. government debt markets keenly awaiting whether the Fed will begin to reduce its bond-buying program. On Wall Street, Apple Inc's shares were down about 5.8 percent a day after it unveiled a high-end iPhone with a fingerprint scanner as well as a cheaper model targeted at emerging markets. The Dow Jones industrial average rose 91.56 points or 0.6 percent, to 15,282.62, the S&P 500 gained 1.68 points or 0.1 percent, to 1,685.67 and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 9.073 points or 0.24 percent, to 3,719.948. The price of the lower-end iPhone was higher than expected and raised concerns that Apple was not fighting hard enough against Google Inc's market-dominating Android operating system. Three brokerages downgraded their ratings on Apple shares. Globally, MSCI's 45-country world index rose 0.26 percent. U.S. Treasury yields fell ahead of the Treasury's sales of $21 billion in 10-year notes, the second sale in $65 billion worth of new supply this week. Benchmark 10-year notes rose 3/32 in price. Their yields eased to 2.96 percent from 2.97 percent on Tuesday and a two-year high of 3.01 percent on Friday. Oil recovered some ground with Brent crude at $111.58, above a 2-1/2-week trough of $110.59. The steadier performance came after a 4 percent drop in the past two sessions, its largest two-day fall since June. Gold inched up to $1,362.90 an ounce having slid to a three-week low of $1,356.85. In Europe, Britain's unemployment rate dipped to its lowest level since late 2012 in the latest sign its economy is picking up. Sterling rose to a seven-month high against both the dollar and the euro, and to a four-year high against the weakened Japanese yen, on the view the Bank of England might raise rates sooner than has been expected. The FTSEurofirst 300 pan-European share index stood 0.53 percent higher. Benchmark German government bonds tracked minor gains by U.S. Treasuries. Italy's benchmark yields rose above Spain's for the first time in 18 months amid concern about political instability and about Italy's banks before an examination of all euro zone banks by the European Central Bank in coming months. Rome sold 11.5 billion euros of treasury bills at its highest rate in over nine months. YEN HOVERS NEAR LOWS The yen hovered near recent lows as the easing tensions over Syria dented demand for the safe-haven Japanese currency, while uncertainty about the Federal Reserve's stimulus plan kept the dollar range-bound. The yen hit a seven-week low against the dollar and a 3-1/2-month trough versus the euro, before recovering losses. Traders said uncertainty about Syria and the Fed could keep major currencies in a range. The U.S. central bank will announce its policy decision as the close of its meeting next Wednesday, and investors will look for details on the pace and timing of the central bank's plans to scale back its bond-buying program. "Until we can get through that meeting and see what the Fed says, we're expecting continued consolidation here," said Eric Viloria, currency strategist at Forex.com. The dollar was last down 0.33 percent at 100.08 yen, according to Reuters data. Analysts said the dollar would likely hold above the 100 yen level in coming sessions. The euro was down 0.14 percent at 133.10 yen, having hit an intra-day peak of 133.36 yen, its highest since May 22.
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