May 29, 2020 / 7:22 PM / a month ago

In rescue effort, Fed has broad stake in corporate America's fortunes

(Reuters) - The U.S. central bank now has a stake in the fortunes of a broad swath of corporate America after buying about $1.3 billion of bond funds with debt issued by firms in all walks of the world’s biggest economy, from Apple Inc (AAPL.O) to a clutch of companies in bankruptcy.

The details on holdings in the Fed’s Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility, one of nearly a dozen emergency programs the Fed has rolled out since March to respond to the coronavirus crisis, were published Friday.

The Fed’s largest investment-grade fund holding - iShares iBoxx US Dollar Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD.P) - contains 30 Apple bonds giving the Fed about $5.7 million of exposure to the maker of iPhones through that ETF alone as of May 19. Apple is also a holding in other ETFs the Fed bought.

The largest of the facility’s junk bond fund holdings - iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG.P) - gives the Fed around $25,000 of exposure to three companies that have filed for bankruptcy since the health crisis erupted, including $14,000 to car rental company Hertz, $10,000 to retailer JC Penney, and $1,500 to department store operator Neiman Marcus.

All told the Fed made 158 purchases of shares in 15 exchange-traded funds from May 12 and May 18, the data showed.

Until the health crisis, the Fed had bought U.S. Treasuries and government-backed bonds. The SMCCF’s purchases of bond ETFs represent entirely new territory.

LQD, the third largest U.S. taxable bond ETF, holds bonds from such banks as Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), as well as telecom operators AT&T Inc (T.N) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N). The fund was the Fed facility’s largest holding, at $326.3 million.

The SMCCF also bought shares in six of the seven largest ETFs devoted to high-yield - or junk - bonds, accounting for $223.4 million, of 17% of its overall portfolio.

The Fed’s investment in HYG was just over $100 million.

Reporting By Dan Burns and Ann Saphir; editing by Grant McCool

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