Mad dash to debt as rate window starts to close

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As interest rates continue their seemingly inexorable climb higher, the door is beginning to close on the cheap-debt party that corporate America has been throwing.

That could mean a sprint to the exits for companies that have come to depend on the fixed income markets to finance operations, buy back stock and goose earnings.

The Federal Reserve's continued moves to keep its policy rate near zero has in turn kept borrowing costs low and made debt issuance attractive. Rates, though, have risen sharply lately, with the benchmark 10-year Treasury note briefly touching 3 percent and most recently at 2.96 percent.

In fact, Verizon is coming to market with the biggest corporate debt offering ever, a $49 billion low-priced deal that investors are expected to stampede toward.