A crisis in credit markets deepened on Sunday as a cluster of funds that own mortgage bonds sought to sell billions in assets to meet investor redemptions, sparking pleas for government intervention.
The sales included at least $1.25 billion of securities being listed by the AlphaCentric Income Opportunities Fund on Sunday, according to people with knowledge of the sales. It sought buyers for a swath of bonds backed primarily by private-label mortgages as it sought to raise cash, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing the private offerings. The fund plunged 17% on Friday, bringing its total decline for the week to 31%.
“The coronavirus has resulted in severe market dislocations and liquidity issues for most segments of the bond market,” AlphaCentric’s Jerry Szilagyi said in an emailed statement on Sunday. “The Fund is not immune to these dislocations” and “like many other funds, is moving expeditiously to address the unprecedented market conditions.”
The best way to obtain favorable prices is to offer a wider range of securities for bid, Szilagyi said. He declined to discuss the amount of securities the fund put up for sale.
Funds that buy up bonds of all kinds -- from debt of America’s largest corporations to securities backed by mortgages -- have struggled with record investor withdrawals amid choppy trading conditions in fixed-income markets. The rush to unload mortgage-backed securities signals that a credit meltdown that began with corporate bonds is spreading to other corners of the market.
Real estate billionaire Tom Barrack said on Sunday that the U.S. commercial-mortgage market is on the brink of collapse and predicted a “domino effect” of catastrophic economic consequences if banks and the government don’t take prompt action. The chief executive officer of Colony Capital Inc. warned in a white paper of a chain reaction of margin calls, mass foreclosures, evictions and, potentially, bank failures due to the pandemic.
Amid the selling, the Structured Finance Association, an industry group for the asset-backed securities market, asked government leaders on Sunday to step in and help boost liquidity in the market.
In a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, the industry group said that “the future path of the pandemic has significantly disrupted the normal functioning of credit markets.”
The group asked them to “immediately enact a new version of the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility,” a financial crisis-era program that helped support the issuance of securities backed by consumer and small-business loans. Such a measure, the group said, would help enhance the liquidity and functioning of crucial credit markets.
“We can most likely expect a continuation of price volatility across the bond market spectrum until the panic selling and market uncertainty subsides or government agencies intervene to support the broader fixed-income market,” Szilagyi said in the AlphaCentric statement.
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