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Markets: Transparency and the Corporate Bond Market

  • Hendrik Bessembinder
  • William Maxwell

For decades, corporate bonds primarily traded in an opaque environment. Quotations, which indicate prices at which dealers are willing to transact, were available only to market professionals, most often by telephone. Prices at which bond transactions were completed were not made public. The U.S. corporate bond market became much more transparent with the introduction of the Transaction Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE) in July 2002. Beginning that date, bond dealers were required to report all trades in publicly issued corporate bonds to the National Association of Security Dealers, which in turn made transaction data available to the public. In this paper, we describe trading protocols in the corporate bond market and assess the impact of the increase in transparency on the market. We review how TRACE has affected the costs that corporate bond investors paid to bond dealers for their transactions. We canvass the opinions of a variety of finance professionals and consider articles in the trade press to obtain a broader view of the impact of transparency on the corporate bond market.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Volume (Year): 22 (2008)
Issue (Month): 2 (Spring)
Pages: 217-234

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Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:22:y:2008:i:2:p:217-234
Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.22.2.217
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  1. Madhavan, Ananth, 1995. "Consolidation, Fragmentation, and the Disclosure of Trading Information," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 8(3), pages 579-603.
  2. Easley, David & O'Hara, Maureen, 1987. "Price, trade size, and information in securities markets," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 69-90, September.
  3. Kyle, Albert S, 1985. "Continuous Auctions and Insider Trading," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1315-35, November.
  4. Pagano, Marco & Roell, Ailsa, 1996. " Transparency and Liquidity: A Comparison of Auction and Dealer Markets with Informed Trading," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(2), pages 579-611, June.
  5. Madhavan, Ananth & Porter, David & Weaver, Daniel, 2005. "Should securities markets be transparent?," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 265-287, August.
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  7. Naik, Narayan Y & Neuberger, Anthony & Viswanathan, S, 1999. "Trade Disclosure Regulations in Markets with Negotiated Trades," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(4), pages 873-900.
  8. Bruno Biais & Richard C. Green, . "The Microstructure of the Bond Market in the 20th Century," GSIA Working Papers 2005-E57, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
  9. Bessembinder, Hendrik & Maxwell, William & Venkataraman, Kumar, 2006. "Market transparency, liquidity externalities, and institutional trading costs in corporate bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 251-288, November.
  10. Kahn, Alfred E, 1988. "Surprises of Airline Deregulation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(2), pages 316-22, May.
  11. Paul Schultz, 2001. "Corporate Bond Trading Costs: A Peek Behind the Curtain," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(2), pages 677-698, 04.
  12. Michael J. Fleming, 2003. "Measuring treasury market liquidity," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Sep, pages 83-108.
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