Staff Working Paper No. 932
By Ambrogio Cesa-Bianchi and Fernando Eguren-Martin
Within-firm variation of corporate bond spreads around the Covid-19 outbreak shows that US dollar‑denominated bonds experienced larger increases in spreads relative to non-dollar bonds, especially at short maturities. Differently, in the non-dollar sample it was the spreads of longer maturity bonds that widened more markedly. Price pressures arising from a liquidity-driven dash for cash alone cannot rationalize these findings. Instead, the patterns we uncover suggest a ‘dash for dollars’, in which investors sold their dollar-denominated assets first, with a consequent impact on prices. We link these dynamics to the dominant role of the US dollar in the international financial system.