How New Fed Corporate Bond Programs Dampened the Financial Accelerator in the Covid-19 Recession
54 Pages Posted: 16 Nov 2020 Last revised: 10 Oct 2021
Date Written: November 2020
In the financial crisis and recession induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, many investment-grade firms became unable to borrow from securities markets. In response, the Fed not only reopened its commercial paper funding facility but also announced it would purchase newly issued and seasoned bonds of corporations rated as investment grade before the Covid pandemic at spreads roughly 1 percentage point above non-recession averages. A careful splicing of different unemployment rate series enables us to assess the effectiveness of recent Fed interventions in these long-term debt markets over long sample periods, spanning the Great Depression, Great Recession and the Covid Recession. Findings indicate that the announcement of forthcoming corporate bond backstop facilities have capped risk premia at levels 100 basis points above non-recession averages, akin to a “penalty rate” for lender of last resort interventions during financial crises. In doing so, these Fed facilities have limited the role of external finance premia in amplifying the macroeconomic impact of the Covid pandemic. Nevertheless, the corporate bond programs blend the roles of the Federal Reserve in conducting monetary policy via its balance sheet, acting as a lender of last resort, and pursuing credit policies.
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