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Exorbitant Privilege? Quantitative Easing and the Bond Market Subsidy of Prospective Fallen Angels
We document capital misallocation in the U.S. investment-grade (IG) corporate bond market, driven by quantitative easing (QE). Prospective fallen angels—risky firms just above the IG rating cutoff—enjoyed subsidized bond financing since 2009, especially when the scale of QE purchases peaked and from IGfocused investors that held more securities purchased in QE programs. The benefitting firms used this privilege to fund risky acquisitions and increase market share, exploiting the sluggish adjustment of credit ratings in downgrading after M&A and adversely affecting competitors' employment ...
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 ...