(Bloomberg) Fed to Buy Junk Bonds Among Other Support
- The Fed said it will invest up to $2.3 trillion in loans to aid small and mid-sized businesses and state and local governments as well as fund the purchases of some types of high-yield bonds, collateralized loan obligations and commercial mortgage-backed securities.
- The money comes on top of the massive stimulus that the Fed had already announced and it thrusts the institution into the sort of speculative lending activities it had shunned in the past — underscoring the risks that Chairman Jerome Powell is willing to take to shore up the economy.
- “We will continue to use these powers forcefully, pro-actively, and aggressively until we are confident that we are solidly on the road to recovery,’ he said in a speech 90 minutes after the details of the measures were announced.
- “Our country’s highest priority must be to address this public health crisis,” Powell said in a statement accompanying details of the new actions. “The Fed’s role is to provide as much relief and stability as we can during this period of constrained economic activity, and our actions today will help ensure that the eventual recovery is as vigorous as possible.”
- Investors quickly bid up prices on corporate bonds and stocks after the announcement. High-yield debt was among the biggest gainers, with some of the largest ETFs tracking those bonds surging the most in a decade.
- But the nature of the Fed’s actions pass the traditional boundaries of the central bank to purchase lower-rated debt and the credit of municipalities, raising questions about its future role.
- “Many of the programs we are undertaking to support the flow of credit rely on emergency lending powers that are available only in very unusual circumstances,” he said in his speech. “I would stress that these are lending powers, not spending powers.”
- The Fed has deployed nearly every tool in its toolbox since March to try and help keep lending flowing in the economy — as businesses shuttered to stem the spread of the virus. It’s unleashed programs used in the 2008-2009 financial crisis to improve liquidity in the Treasury and credit markets, and reached into unchartered territory to support American businesses, states and local governments.
- In a move that surprised some investors, the central bank will also expand its bond-buying program to include debt that was investment-grade rated as of March 22 but was later downgraded to no lower than BB-, or three levels into high yield. It’ll also buy exchange-traded funds, the preponderance of which will track investment-grade debt along with some that track speculative-grade debt. Together, the programs will support as much as $850 billion in credit.
- “The reason the Fed had to expand the pool of credit that they are willing to buy is that so many borrowers are slipping into these lower-rated categories,” said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities. “This is aimed more at fallen angels rather that dastardly devils.”
- The Fed also said it will continue to closely monitor conditions in the primary and secondary markets for municipal securities and will evaluate whether additional measures are needed to support the flow of credit and liquidity to state and local governments.
(Federal Reserve) Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility
- Eligible ETFs: The Facility also may purchase U.S.-listed ETFs whose investment objective is to provide broad exposure to the market for U.S. corporate bonds. The preponderance of ETF holdings will be of ETFs whose primary investment objective is exposure to U.S. investment-grade corporate bonds, and the remainder will be in ETFs whose primary investment objective is exposure to U.S. high-yield corporate bonds.
- Eligible Individual Corporate Bonds will have a remaining maturity of 5 years or less. The issuer must have been rated at least BBB-/Baa3 as of March 22, 2020, by two or more major nationally recognized statistical rating organization (“NRSRO”).
- Additionally, an issuer that was rated at least BBB-/Baa3 as of March 22, 2020, but was subsequently downgraded, must be rated at least BB-/Ba3 as of the date on which the Facility makes a purchase.
- The Facility will cease purchasing eligible corporate bonds and eligible ETFs no later than September 30, 2020, unless the Facility is extended by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Treasury Department. The Reserve Bank will continue to fund the Facility after such date until the Facility’s holdings either mature or are sold.