The Making of Fallen Angels—and What QE and Credit Rating Agencies Have to Do with It
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.
Hold the Check: Overdrafts, Fee Caps, and Financial Inclusion
The 25 percent of low-income Americans without a checking account operate in a separate but unequal financial world. Instead of paying for things with cheap, convenient debit cards and checks, they get by with “fringe” payment providers like check cashers, money transfer, and other alternatives. Costly overdrafts rank high among reasons why households “bounce out” of the banking system and some observers have advocated capping overdraft fees to promote inclusion. Our recent paper finds unintended (if predictable) effects of overdraft fee caps. Studying a case where fee caps were selectively relaxed for some banks, we find higher fees at the unbound banks, but also increased overdraft credit supply, lower bounced check rates (potentially the costliest overdraft), and more low-income households with checking accounts. That said, we recognize that overdraft credit is expensive, sometimes more than even payday loans. In lieu of caps, we see increased overdraft credit competition and transparency as alternative paths to cheaper deposit accounts and increased inclusion.
Who Pays What First? Debt Prioritization during the COVID Pandemic
Since the depths of the Great Recession, household debt has increased from a low of $11 trillion in 2013 to more than $14 trillion in 2020 (see the New York Fed Household Debt and Credit Report). In this post, we examine how consumers’ repayment priorities have evolved over that time. Specifically, we seek to answer the following question: When consumers repay some but not all of their loans, which types do they choose to keep paying and which do they fall behind on?
February Regional Business Surveys Find Widespread Supply Disruptions
Business activity increased in the region’s manufacturing sector in recent weeks but continued to decline in the region’s service sector, continuing a divergent trend seen over the past several months, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s February regional business surveys. Looking ahead, however, businesses expressed widespread optimism about the near-term outlook, with service firms increasingly confident that the business climate will be better in six months. The surveys also found that supply disruptions were widespread, with manufacturing firms reporting longer delivery times and rising input costs, a likely consequence of such disruptions. Many firms also noted that minimum wage hikes implemented in January in both New York and New Jersey had affected their employment or compensation decisions.
Up on Main Street
The Main Street Lending Program was the last of the facilities launched by the Fed and Treasury to support the flow of credit during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21. The others primarily targeted Wall Street borrowers; Main Street was for smaller firms that rely more on banks for credit. It was a complicated program that worked by purchasing loans and sharing risk with lenders. Despite its delayed launch, Main Street purchased more debt than any other facility and was accelerating when it closed in January 2021. This post first locates Main Street in the constellation of COVID-19 credit programs, then looks in detail at its design and usage with an eye toward any future programs.
Weathering the Storm: Who Can Access Credit in a Pandemic?
Credit enables firms to weather temporary disruptions in their business that may impair their cash flow and limit their ability to meet commitments to suppliers and employees. The onset of the COVID recession sparked a massive increase in bank credit, largely driven by firms drawing on pre-committed credit lines. In this post, which is based on a recent Staff Report, we investigate which firms were able to tap into bank credit to help sustain their business over the ensuing downturn.
The Primary Dealer Credit Facility
On March 17, 2020, the Federal Reserve announced that it would re-establish the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF) to allow primary dealers to support smooth market functioning and facilitate the availability of credit to businesses and households. The PDCF started offering overnight and term funding with maturities of up to ninety days on March 20. It will be in place for at least six months and may be extended as conditions warrant. In this post, we provide an overview of the PDCF and its usage to date.
The Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility
To prevent outflows from prime and muni funds from turning into an industry-wide run after the COVID-19 outbreak, the Federal Reserve established Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility. This post looks at the Fed’s intervention, its goals, and the direct and indirect market effects.
How Does Credit Access Affect Job-Search Outcomes and Sorting?
The analysis considers how access to consumer credit influences the job search behavior of displaced workers.
Just Released: Hints of Increased Hardship in America’s Oil-Producing Counties
Andrew F. Haughwout, Donghoon Lee, Joelle Scally, and Wilbert van der Klaauw Today, the New York Fed released the Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit for the first quarter of 2016. Overall debt saw one of its larger increases since deleveraging ended, while delinquency rates for the United States continued to improve and remain […]