EC Credit Markets – The Waiting Game

Everything and the Kitchen Sink

After the first inter-meeting rate cut in early March, we opined that further rate cuts were a near certainty and that “not-QE” would swiftly morph into “QE, next iteration” (see Rate Cutters Unanimous for the details). As it turned out, the monetary mandarins did not even wait for the official FOMC meeting before deciding to throw everything and the kitchen sink at the markets. Not only were rates insta-ZIRPed, but “not-QE” became “QE on steroids, plus”.

The federal debt monetization machinery goes into orbit. Moon landing next?

The “plus” stands for the alphabet soup of additional support programs for various slices of the credit markets, ranging from money markets to commercial paper to corporate bonds (investment grade only – for now). Alan Greenspan once said in Congressional testimony that if need be, the Fed would one day even “monetize oxen” – he may well live to see it.

What spooked the central bank was clearly the fact that corporate credit markets froze in response to the stock market crash and the lockdown measures. The latter have left a great many companies bereft of cash flows, not an ideal situation considering that trillions in corporate debt have to be refinanced in coming months and years. We have long argued that burgeoning corporate debt was the Achilles heel of the bubble, and this remains the case.

When the stock market crash started, money initially continued to flow into investment grade corporate bonds. LQD (investment grade corporate bond ETF) still made new highs in early March, while stocks were already in free-fall. But that didn’t last, and in less than two weeks LQD not only joined the crash, but began to trade at unprecedentedly large discounts to its NAV.

Critics of the proliferation of ETFs long predicted that once push came to shove, the disparity in the liquidity of ETFs and the liquidity of their underlying holdings would lead to major dislocations and trigger negative feedback loops. Although that seems more than obvious, a number of prominent sell-side analysts vehemently disputed that something like this was likely to happen. And then it happened (LQD was by no means the only ETF suffering such price distortions).

1 2 3 4
View single page >> |

None

How did you like this article? Let us know so we can better customize your reading experience. Users' ratings are only visible to themselves.

Comments

Leave a comment to automatically be entered into our contest to win a free Echo Show.
Gary Anderson 6 months ago Contributor's comment

Sobering article.