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Bank leverage constraints and bond market illiquidity during the COVID-19 crisis

Bank leverage constraints and bond market illiquidity during the COVID-19 crisis

The onset of COVID-19 led to heightened uncertainty and a ‘dash-for-cash’, particularly in the mutual fund sector which faced fire sale pressure. Typically, banks trading securities absorb such pressure and support market liquidity, but regulation may limit their ability to do so. This column analyses the role of bank leverage constraints as an amplifier of bond market illiquidity. It concludes that leverage ratio regulation can have negative side effects by increasing bond market illiquidity in times of economic distress, suggesting that the optimal leverage ratio is procyclical.