Fed Adds More Than $300 Million In Corporate Bond ETFs To Its $7 Trillion Balance Sheet

David Dierking

The Federal Reserve finally delivered on a whole new chapter in its unlimited support of the financial markets.

Prior to this week, the Fed has always limited itself to government T-bills, repos and other short-term securities in order to add or remove liquidity to specific markets. The most notable of these was its intervention into the overnight lending market, which had suddenly dried up and was threatening to collapse altogether. It's still purchasing T-bills in order to support that market, although it's begun winding down now.

But now it's adding riskier securities to its balance sheet.

This week, the Fed added more than $300 million in corporate bond ETFs to its portfolio ($305 million to be exact), some of which are rated non-investment grade, through its newly established Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility.

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This first purchase is part of a broader program that's expected to result in up to $100 billion in corporate bond ETF buys overall.

The primary targeted corporate bond ETFs - the iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) and the iShares iBoxx $ High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG) - showed some bounce after the original announcement was made, but the timing also coincided with the bounce off the bear market bottom, so how much bounce it got from this is unclear.

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Yesterday's action resulted in virtually no movement in these ETFs. LQD is up modestly, while HYG is down, but that can largely be explained by broader market movements this week.

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Key Takeaway

Investors are trying to front-run some of the Fed's actions, but it looks like there's very little, if any, outsized gains to be had here. This information is also priced into bond prices.

But the constant Fed support should provide some downside cushion from these funds falling too far should the corporate bond market destabilize again. I'm still neutral on investment-grade corporates and bearish on high yield corporates overall.

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