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Anne-Caroline Hüser, Caterina Lepore, and Luitgard Veraart
We examine how the repo market operates during liquidity stress by applying network analysis to novel transaction-level data of the overnight gilt repo market including the COVID-19 crisis. During this crisis, the repo network becomes more connected, with most institutions relying on existing trade relationships to transact. There are however significant changes in the repo volumes and spreads during the stress relative to normal times. We find a significant increase in volumes traded in the cleared segment of the market. This reflects a preference for dealers and banks to transact in the cleared rather than the bilateral segment. Funding decreases towards non-banks, only increasing for hedge funds. Further, spreads are higher when dealers and banks lend to rather than borrow from non-banks. Our results can inform the policy debate around the behaviour of banks and non-banks in recent liquidity stress and on widening participation in CCPs by nonbanks.
Mr. Thierry Tressel and Xiaodan Ding
Corporate sector vulnerabilities have been a central policy topic since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this paper, we analyze some 17,000 publicly listed firms in a sample of 24 countries, and assess their ability to withstand shocks induced by the pandemic to their liquidity, viability and solvency. For this purpose, we develop novel multi-factor sensitivity analysis and dynamic scenario-based stress test techniques to assess the impact of shocks on firm’s ability to service their debt, and on their liquidity and solvency positions. Applying the October 2020 WEO baseline and adverse scenarios, we find that a large share of publicly-listed firms become vulnerable as a result of the pandemic shock and additional borrowing needs to overcome cash shortfalls are large, while firm behavioral responses and policies substantially help overcome the impact of the shock in the near term. Looking forward, while interest coverage ratios tend to improve over time after the initial shock as earnings recover in line with projected macroeconomic conditions, liquidity needs remain substantial in many firms across countries and across industries, while insolvencies rise over time in specific industries. To inform policy debates, we offer an approach to a triage between viable and unviable firms, and find that the needs for liquidity support of viable firms remain important beyond 2020, and that medium-term debt restructuring needs and liquidations of firms may be substantial in the medium-term.
Mr. Christian H Ebeke, Nemanja Jovanovic, Ms. Laura Valderrama, and Jing Zhou
The spread of COVID-19, containment measures, and general uncertainty led to a sharp reduction in activity in the first half of 2020. Europe was hit particularly hard—the economic contraction in 2020 is estimated to have been among the largest in the world—with potentially severe repercussions on its nonfinancial corporations. A wave of corporate bankruptcies would generate mass unemployment, and a loss of productive capacity and firm-specific human capital. With many SMEs in Europe relying primarily on the banking sector for external finance, stress in the corporate sector could easily translate into pressures in the banking system (Aiyar et al., forthcoming).
Mr. Frank Hespeler and Felix Suntheim
This note analyzes the stress experienced (and caused) by open-end mutual funds during the March COVID-19 stress episode, with a focus on global fixed-income funds. In light of increased valuation uncertainty, funds experienced a short period of intense withdrawals while the market liquidity of their holdings deteriorated substantially. To cover redemptions, afflicted funds predominantly shed liquid assets first—for example, cash, cash equivalents, and US Treasury securities. But forced asset sales amplified price pressures in markets and contributed to liquidity falling across fixed-income markets. This drop in market liquidity, as well as the general stress in financial markets, may have led to fund investors becoming even more sensitive to challenging portfolio performance and encouraged further withdrawals. Only after central banks intervened, directly and indirectly supporting asset managers, did liquidity and redemption stress subside. Overall, the March episode validated the financial-stability concerns about liquidity vulnerabilities in the fund industry and calls for further action to address them.
Thilo Kroeger, Anh Thi Ngoc Nguyen, Yuanyan Sophia Zhang, Pham Dinh Thuy, Nguyen Huy Minh, and Duong Danh Tuan
The paper uses firm-level data to assess the financial health of the Vietnamese non-financial corporate sector on the eve of pandemic. Our analysis finds that smaller domestic firms were particularly vulnerable even by regional comparison. A sensitivity analysis suggests that the COVID-19 shock will have a substantial impact on firms’ profitability, liquidity and even solvency, particularly in the hardest hit sectors that are dominated by SMEs and account for a sizeable employment share, but large firms are not immune to the crisis. Risks of default can propagate more broadly through upstream and downstream linkages to industries not directly impacted, with stresses potentially translating into an increase in corporate bankruptcies and bank fragility. Policy measures taken in the immediate aftermath of the crisis have helped alleviate liquidity pressures, but the nature of policy support may have to pivot to support the recovery.
International Monetary Fund. European Dept.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused dramatic loss of human life and major damage to the European economy, but thanks to an exceptionally strong policy response, potentially devastating outcomes have been avoided.