Riskier firms typically borrow at higher rates than safer firms because investors require compensation for taking on more risk. However, since 2009 this relationship has been turned on its head in the massive BBB corporate bond market, with risky BBB-rated firms borrowing at lower rates than their safer BBB-rated peers. The resulting risk materialized in an unprecedented wave of “fallen angels” (or firms downgraded below the BBB investment-grade threshold) at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this post, based on a related Staff Report, we claim that this anomaly has been driven by a combination of factors: a boost in investor demand for investment-grade bonds associated with the Federal Reserve’s quantitative easing (QE) and sluggish adjustment of credit ratings for risky BBB issuers.
Collateralized loan obligation (CLO) issuances in the United States increased by a factor of thirteen between 2009 and 2019, with the volume of outstanding CLOs more than doubling to approach $647 billion by the end of that period. While researchers and policy makers have been investigating the impact of this growth on the cost and riskiness of corporate loans and the potential implications for financial stability, less attention has been paid to the drivers of this phenomenon. In this post, which is based on our recent paper, we shed light on the role that insurance companies have played in the growth of corporate loans’ securitization and identify the key factors behind that role.
American companies have raised almost $1 trillion in the U.S. corporate bond market since March. Based on Compustat data, these companies employ more than 16 million people, and have spent more than $280 billion on capital expenditures in the first half of 2020, thereby supporting future economic activity. In this post, we document the contribution of the Primary Market and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities (PMCCF and SMCCF) to bond market functioning, summarizing a detailed evaluation described in a new working paper. Improvements documented in an earlier blog post on the corporate facilities continued after the initial announcement as purchases began, and can be attributed both to the positive effects of Federal Reserve interventions generally as well as the facilities’ direct impact on eligible issuers in particular.
On April 9, the Federal Reserve announced that it would take additional actions to provide up to $2.3 trillion in loans to support the economy in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the initiatives are the Primary Market and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities (PMCCF and SMCCF), whose intent is to provide support for large U.S. businesses that typically finance themselves by issuing debt in capital markets. Corporate bonds support the operations of companies with more than 17 million employees based in the United States and these bonds are key assets for retirees and pension funds. If companies are unable to issue corporate bonds, they may be unable to invest in inventory and equipment, meet current liabilities, or pay employees. Maintaining access to credit is thus crucially important during the COVID-19 pandemic, both for issuing companies and for their employees. This post documents the dislocations in the corporate bond market that have motivated the creation of these facilities and explains how we expect these facilities to support U.S. businesses and their employees both through the COVID-related disruptions and beyond, when the economy recovers.
Credit default swaps (CDS) are frequently credited with being the cause of AIG’s collapse during the financial crisis. A Reuters article from September 2008, for example, notes “[w]hen you hear that the collapse of AIG […] might lead to a systemic collapse of the global financial system, the feared culprit is, largely, that once-obscure […] instrument known as a credit default swap.” Yet, despite the prominent role that CDS played during the financial crisis, little is known about how individual financial institutions utilize CDS contracts on individual companies. In a recent New York Fed staff report, we assess the choice banks face when trading the idiosyncratic credit risk of a firm, and argue that banks’ participation decisions have been affected in the post-regulation period, either by direct changes in market structure or by changes in the relative cost of pursuing different strategies.
In a recent post, we presented some preliminary evidence suggesting that corporate bond market liquidity is ample. That evidence relied on bid-ask spread and price impact measures.