Corporate Bond Liquidity During the COVID-19 Crisis
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We study liquidity conditions in the corporate bond market since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We find that in mid-March 2020, as selling pressure surged, dealers were wary of accumulating inventory on their balance sheets, perhaps out of concern for violating regulatory requirements. As a result, the cost to investors of trading immediately with a dealer surged. A portion of transactions migrated to a slower, less costly process wherein dealers arranged for trades directly between customers without using their own balance sheet space. Interventions by the Federal Reserve appear to have relaxed balance sheet constraints: soon after they were announced, dealers began absorbing inventory, bid-ask spreads declined, and market liquidity started to improve. Interestingly, liquidity conditions improved for bonds that were eligible for the Fed’s lending/purchase programs and for bonds that were ineligible. Hence, by allowing dealers to unload certain assets from their balance sheet, the Fed’s interventions may have helped dealers to better intermediate a wide variety of assets, including those not directly targeted.
Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27355