Treasury Market When-Issued Trading Activity
Despite the importance of when-issued trading of Treasury securities, and the advent of FINRA’s TRACE database of trading statistics, little is known publicly about the level of WI activity. In this post, the authors address this gap by analyzing WI transactions recorded in TRACE.
The Impact of the Corporate Credit Facilities
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.
The Primary and Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facilities
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.
What’s in A(AA) Credit Rating?
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.
The Evolving Market for U.S. Sovereign Credit Risk
How should we measure market expectations of the U.S. government failing to meet its debt obligations and thereby defaulting? A natural candidate would be to use the spreads on U.S. sovereign single-name credit default swaps (CDS): since a CDS provides insurance to the buyer for the possibility of default, an increase in the CDS spread would indicate an increase in the market-perceived probability of a credit event occurring. In this post, we argue that aggregate measures of activity in U.S. sovereign CDS mask a decrease in risk-forming transactions after 2014. That is, quoted CDS spreads in this market are based on few, if any, market transactions and thus may be a misleading indicator of market expectations.