The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic poses unprecedented health, economic, and financial stability challenges. Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the prices of risk assets collapsed and market volatility spiked, while expectations of widespread defaults led to a surge in borrowing costs. Several factors amplified asset price moves: previously overstretched asset valuations, pressures to unwind leveraged trades, dealers’ balance-sheet constraints, and a deterioration in market liquidity. Emerging market economies experienced the sharpest reversal of portfolio flows on record. As a result, financial conditions tightened at an unprecedented speed. Decisive monetary, financial, and fiscal policy actions—aimed at containing the fallout from the pandemic—managed to stabilize investor sentiment in late March–early April, with markets paring back some of their losses.
A further tightening of financial conditions may expose more “cracks” in global financial markets and test the resilience of financial institutions. Asset managers may face further outflows and may be forced to sell assets into falling markets. Distress may rise among leveraged firms and households. Emerging and frontier markets may face challenging external funding conditions, rising rollover risks, and increased incidence of debt restructurings. Although banks have more capital and liquidity than in the past, have been subject to stress tests, and are supported by central bank liquidity provision, their resilience may be tested in some countries in the face of large market and credit losses. Wide-ranging fiscal, monetary, and financial policies, as well as strong international cooperation, remain essential to safeguard economic and financial stability and to prevent the emergence of adverse macro-financial feedback loops.