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Update: Clarifying text regarding the net leverage chart, as well as an additional chart, have been added to the bottom of this post. (January 10, 10:40 a.m.)
Rising nonfinancial corporate business leverage, especially for riskier “high-yield” firms, has recently received increased public and supervisory scrutiny. For example, the Federal Reserve’s May 2019 Financial Stability Report notes that “growth in business debt has outpaced GDP for the past 10 years, with the most rapid growth in debt over recent years concentrated among the riskiest firms.” At the upper end of the credit spectrum, “investment-grade” firms have also increased their borrowing, while the number of higher-rated firms has decreased. In fact, there are currently only two U.S. companies rated AAA: Johnson & Johnson and Microsoft. In this post, we examine recent trends in the issuance of investment-grade corporate bonds and argue that the combination of increased BAA issuance and virtually nonexistent AAA issuance both reduces the usefulness of the BAA–AAA spread as a credit risk indicator and poses a financial stability concern.
Kristian Blickle, Fernando Duarte, Thomas Eisenbach, and Anna Kovner
A key part of understanding the stability of the U.S. financial system is to monitor leverage and funding risks in the financial sector and the way in which these vulnerabilities interact to amplify negative shocks. In this post, we provide an update of four analytical models, introduced in aLiberty Street Economics post last year, that aim to capture different aspects of banking system vulnerability. Since their introduction, vulnerabilities as indicated by these models have increased moderately, continuing the slow but steady upward trend that started around 2016. Despite the recent increase, the overall level of vulnerabilities according to this analysis remains subdued and is still significantly smaller than before the financial crisis of 2008-09.
Update (9 a.m.): An earlier version of this post transposed line labels in the first figure. The error has been corrected.
First of two posts
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has recently communicated its aim to continue implementing monetary policy in a regime that maintains an ample supply of reserves, though with a significantly lower level of reserves than has prevailed in recent years. The liquidity needs of the largest U.S. commercial banks play an important role in understanding the banking system’s appetite for actual reserve holdings, which we refer to as bank reserve demand. In this post, we discuss the recent evolution of large bank cash balances and the effect of liquidity regulations on these balances. In part two of this series, we provide new evidence on how the largest banks manage their liquidity needs on a daily basis.
Fernando M. Duarte, Collin Jones, and Francisco Ruela
First of two posts
In compiling a list of key takeaways of the 2008 financial crisis, surely the dangers of counterparty risk would be near the top. During the crisis, speculation on which financial institution would be next to default on its obligations to creditors, and which one would come after that, dominated news cycles. Since then, there has been an explosion in research trying to understand and quantify the default spillovers that can arise through counterparty risk. This is the first of two posts delving into the analysis of financial network contagion through this spillover channel. Here we introduce a framework that is useful for thinking about default cascades, originally developed by Eisenberg and Noe.
Erin Denison, Michael J. Fleming, and Asani Sarkar
Second of five posts
Expectations of creditor recovery were low when the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy process started. On the day the firm filed for bankruptcy in September 2008, the average price of Lehman’s senior bonds implied a recovery rate of about 30 percent for senior creditors. A month later the bond price was implying a recovery rate of 9 percent, consistent with results from Lehman’s CDS auction. Two and a half years later, Lehman’s estate estimated that the recovery rate for holding company creditors would be just 16 percent. So, ten years after the filing, how much did creditors actually recover?
Better understanding of financial intermediation is critical to the efforts of the New York Fed to promote financial stability and economic growth. In pursuit of this mission, the New York Fed recently hosted the thirteenth annual Federal Reserve Bank of New York–New York University Stern School of Business Conference on Financial Intermediation. At this conference, a range of authors were invited to discuss their research in this area. In this post, we present some of the discussion and findings from the conference.
Viral V. Acharya, Michael J. Fleming, Warren B. Hrung, and Asani Sarkar
During the 2007-08 financial crisis, the Fed established lending facilities designed to improve market functioning by providing liquidity to nondepository financial institutions—the first lending targeted to this group since the 1930s. What was the financial condition of the dealers that borrowed from these facilities? Were they healthy institutions behaving opportunistically or were they genuinely distressed? In published research, we find that dealers in a weaker financial condition were more likely to participate than healthier ones and tended to borrow more. Our findings reinforce the importance of Bagehot’s principle that the lender-of-last resort should lend only against high-quality collateral and at a penalty rate so as to discourage unneeded or opportunistic borrowing.
Nicola Cetorelli, Fernando M. Duarte, Thomas M. Eisenbach, and Emily Eisner
On December 9, 2015, Third Avenue Focused Credit Fund (FCF) announced a “Plan of Liquidation,” effectively halting investor redemptions. This announcement followed a period of poor performance and large outflows. Assets at the fund had declined from a peak of $2.5 billion in May of 2015 to $942 million in November. Investors had redeemed more than $1.1 billion in shares since April 2015, and the fund’s year-to-date performance as of November had fallen below -21 percent. The FCF “run” highlights the need to quantify the potential for systemic risk among open-end mutual funds and the potential for contagion in the event of more widespread runs on other vulnerable funds. In this post, we first characterize open-end mutual funds that seem vulnerable to redemptions in much the same way as FCF. We then analyze the potential for fire-sale spillovers to other mutual funds if large redemptions in “at-risk” funds were to occur.
Nicola Cetorelli, Fernando M. Duarte, and Thomas M. Eisenbach
Update: A technical appendix has been added to the post.
According to conventional wisdom, an open-ended investment fund that has a floating net asset value (NAV) and no leverage will never experience a run and hence never have to fire-sell assets. In that view, a decline in the value of the fund’s assets will just lead to a commensurate and automatic decline in the fund’s equity—end of story. In this post, we argue that the conventional wisdom is incomplete and then explore some of the systemic risk consequences of investment funds’ vulnerabilities to fire-sale spillovers.
One of the lessons from the recent financial crisis is the need for securities dealers to have durable sources of funding. As evidenced by the demise of Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, during times of stress, cash lenders may pull away from firms or funding markets more broadly. Lengthening the tenor of secured funding is one way for a dealer to mitigate the risk of losing funding when market conditions are strained. In this post, we use clearing bank tri-party repo data to examine the degree to which dealers are lengthening the maturities of their sources of funding. (Aggregate statistics using these data are available here.) We focus on less liquid securities because it is for these assets that the durability of funding matters the most. We find substantial progress overall, with the weighted-average maturity (WAM) of funding of the less liquid securities more than doubling from January 2011 to May 2014. Nevertheless, there is currently a wide dispersion in dealer-level WAM, raising questions as to whether all dealers have enough durability in their funding of risk assets.
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.
The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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