The illiquidity component of corporate bond spreads

Silva, André de Castro
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We find that illiquidity remains a major factor in explaining corporate spreads. Illiquidity is second only to the credit risk itself. This effect is surprising given that the corporate debt trading activity has more than doubled in the US since the financial crisis of 2008. Longer bonds are substantially more illiquid than shorter bonds as one additional year in time to mature dries liquidity by 16%. We regress monthly cross-sectional corporate yield spreads on our return-based illiquidity measure, controlling for other variables such as the CDS spread and volatility. We find that a one standard deviation increase in illiquidity widens spreads by 26 basis points.

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