Ever since bond market liquidity became the topic du jour across Wall Street (just a few short years after it was first raised in these pages), analysts, pundits, and reporters alike have begun to question what might happen should investors who have piled into mutual funds and ETFs (especially fixed income products) suddenly decide to sell into illiquid secondary markets.
Some have suggested, for instance, that if corporate bond fund managers were suddenly inundated with a cascade of redemptions, the absence of dealer liquidity in the secondary market could create the conditions for a firesale.
The problem, as we’ve been keen to point out, is that when fund flows are one-way (i.e. everyone is selling), fund managers must either i) meet redemptions with cash, or ii) trade the underlying securities. Note that the latter option is so undesirable in illiquid markets (indeed, trading large blocks into illiquid markets poses a systemic risk), that some fund managers are now lining upemergency liquidity lines with banks so that they can at least meet an initial wave of selling with cash and avoid, for a time at least, sparring with illiquidity.
In his latest Investment Outlook, Bill Gross addresses the above, describes what events might trigger a retail exodus (thus tipping the first domino), and says investors should hold enough cash to ride out the storm without participating in a firesale caused by rising rates or some manner of exogenous shock.
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From “It Never Rains In California”:
Mutual funds, hedge funds, and ETFs, are part of the “shadow banking system” where these modern “banks” are not required to maintain reserves or even emergency levels of cash. Since they in effect now are the market, a rush for liquidity on the part of the investing public, whether they be individuals in 401Ks or