Financial Fragility in the COVID-19 Crisis: The Case of Investment Funds in Corporate Bond Markets
In the decade following the financial crisis of 2008, investment funds in corporate bond markets became prominent market players and generated concerns of financial fragility. The COVID-19 crisis provides an opportunity to inspect their resilience in a major stress event. Using daily microdata, we document major outflows in these funds during this period, far greater than anything they experienced in past events. Large outflows were sustained over several weeks and were widespread across funds. Inspecting the role of sources of fragility, we show that both the illiquidity of fund assets and the vulnerability to fire sales were important factors in explaining outflows in this episode. The exposure to sectors most hurt by the COVID-19 crisis was also important. Two policy announcements by the Federal Reserve about extraordinary direct interventions in corporate-bond markets seem to have played an important role in calming down the panic and reversing the outflows.
Views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Board or its staff. We thank participants at the Brookings Webinar on "COVID-19 and the Financial System - How and Why Were Financial Markets Disrupted?" for helpful comments and discussions. Jacob Faber provided excellent research assistance. Itay Goldstein has been retained by a law firm as an expert on a case involving a liquidity crisis and government intervention in a European bank. This case has not influenced the research in this paper, and the research in this paper has not influenced the case. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.