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 ...
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 ...
The Effect of Fed Funds Rate Hikes on Consumer Borrowing Costs
The target federal funds rate has hovered around zero for nearly a decade, and observers are questioning what effect an increase could have on both the financial markets and the real economy. In this post, we examine the historical reaction of loan rates to target rate increases. Specifically, we examine the interest rates that banks offer on residential mortgages and home equity lines of credit (HELOCs).
Trends in Arbitrage-Based Measures of Bond Liquidity
Corporate bonds are an important source of funding for public corporations in the United States. When these bonds cannot be easily traded in secondary markets or when investors cannot easily hedge their bond positions in derivatives markets, the issuance costs to corporations increase, leading to higher overall funding costs. In this post, we examine recent trends in arbitrage-based measures of liquidity in corporate bond and credit default swap (CDS) markets and evaluate potential explanations for the deterioration in these measures that occurred between the middle of 2015 and early 2016.
Credit Market Arbitrage and Regulatory Leverage
In a companion post, we examined the recent trends in arbitraged-based measures of liquidity in the cash bond and credit default swap (CDS) markets. In this post, we turn to the mechanics of the CDS-bond arbitrage trade and explore how the costs and profitability of such trades might be affected by the finalization of the supplementary leverage ratio (SLR) rule in September 2014.
We study the conditional distribution of GDP growth as a function of economic and financial conditions. Deteriorating financial conditions are associated with an increase in the conditional volatility and a decline in the conditional mean of GDP growth, leading the lower quantiles of GDP growth to vary with financial conditions and the upper quantiles to be stable over time: Upside risks to GDP growth are low in most periods while downside risks increase as financial conditions become tighter. We argue that amplification mechanisms in the financial sector generate the observed growth ...
On the scale of financial intermediaries
This paper studies the economic scale of financial institutions. We show that banks and security broker-dealers actively smooth book equity by adjusting payouts. The smoothing of book equity is associated with procyclical book leverage and procyclical net payouts. In contrast, market leverage largely reflects movements in valuation levels as measured by book-to-market ratios. The 2008 crisis caused a structural break, after which the growth rates of the banking and dealer sectors have been subdued relative to pre-crisis levels. We draw conclusions for theories of financial intermediation and ...
Trends in credit market arbitrage
Market participants and policymakers alike were surprised by the large, prolonged dislocations in credit market arbitrage trades during the second half of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016. In this paper, we examine three explanations proposed by market participants: increased idiosyncratic risks, strategic positioning by some market participants, and regulatory changes. We find some evidence of increased idiosyncratic risk during the relevant period but limited evidence of asset managers changing their positioning in derivative products. While we cannot quantify the contribution of these ...
Dealer balance sheets and bond liquidity provision
Do regulations decrease dealer ability to intermediate trades? Using a unique data set of dealer-bond-level transactions, we link changes in liquidity of individual U.S. corporate bonds to dealers? transaction activity and balance sheet constraints. We show that, prior to the financial crisis, bonds traded by more levered institutions and institutions with investment-bank-like characteristics were more liquid but this relationship reverses after the financial crisis. In addition, institutions that face more regulations after the crisis both reduce their overall volume of trade and have less ...
Counterparty risk in material supply contracts
This paper explores the sources of counterparty risk in material supply relationships. Using long-term supply contracts collected from SEC filings, we test whether three sources of counterparty risk?financial exposure, product quality risk, and redeployability risk?are priced in the equity returns of linked firms. Our results show that equity holders require compensation for exposure to all three sources of risk. Specifically, offering trade credit to counterparties and investing in relationship-specific assets increase the firm?s exposure to counterparty risk. Further, we show that contracts ...