Settlement fails in corporate securities increased sharply in 2022, reaching levels not seen since the 2007-09 financial crisis. As a fraction of trading volume, fails that involve primary dealers reached an all-time high in the week of March 23, 2022. In this post, we investigate the 2022 spike in settlement fails for corporate securities and discuss potential drivers for this increase, including trading volume, corporate issuance, fails in bond ETFs, and operational problems.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) started increasing rates on March 16, 2022, and after the January 31–February 1, 2023, FOMC meeting, the lower bound of the target range of the federal funds rate had reached 4.50 percent, a level last registered in November 2007. Such a rapid rates increase could pass through to higher funding costs for U.S. corporations. In this post, we examine how corporate leverage and bond market debt have evolved over the course of the current tightening cycle and compare the current experience to that during the previous three tightening cycles.
The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) has increased the target interest rate by 3.75 percentage points since March 17, 2022. In this post we examine how corporate bond market functioning has evolved along with the changes in monetary policy through the lens of the U.S. Corporate Bond Market Distress Index (CMDI). We compare this evolution to the 2015 tightening cycle for context on how bond market conditions have evolved as rates increase. The overall CMDI has deteriorated but remains close to historical medians. The investment-grade CMDI index has deteriorated more than the high-yield, driven by low levels of primary market issuance.
Corporate bonds are a key source of funding for U.S. non-financial corporations and a key investment security for insurance companies, pension funds, and mutual funds. Distress in the corporate bond market can thus both impair access to credit for corporate borrowers and reduce investment opportunities for key financial sub-sectors. In a February 2021 Liberty Street Economics post, we introduced a unified measure of corporate bond market distress, the Corporate Bond Market Distress Index (CMDI), then followed up in early June 2022 with a look at how corporate bond market functioning evolved over 2022 in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the tightening of U.S. monetary policy. Today we are launching the CMDI as a regularly produced data series, with new readings to be published each month. In this post, we describe what constitutes corporate bond market distress, motivate the construction of the CMDI, and argue that secondary market measures alone are insufficient to capture market functioning.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine increased uncertainty around the world. Although most U.S. companies have limited direct exposure to Ukrainian and Russian trading partners, increased global uncertainty may still have an indirect effect on funding conditions through tightening financial conditions. In this post, we examine how conditions in the U.S. corporate bond market have evolved since the start of the year through the lens of the U.S. Corporate Bond Market Distress Index (CMDI). As described in a previous Liberty Street Economics post, the index quantifies joint dislocations in the primary and secondary corporate bond markets and can thus serve as an early warning signal to detect financial market dysfunction. The index has risen sharply from historically low levels before the invasion of Ukraine, peaking on March 19, but appears to have stabilized around the median historical level.
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.
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.
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.
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.