The Economist, Digitisation shakes up corporate-bond markets

Today shares and many derivatives can be traded with a few simple clicks (or even in fully automated fashion, using algorithms). But buying and selling bonds, especially corporate bonds, is still an old-fashioned business. Over four-fifths of trading in American corporate bonds still takes place with a dealer, usually over the phone.

One new source of liquidity has come from exchange-traded funds (ETFs). Shares in bond ETFs, like those composed of equities, track indices, allowing investors access to a basket of bonds. But the impact for bonds is more significant, because bonds are otherwise traded so rarely. Indeed, bond ETFs are more liquid than the assets the funds own. But ETFs still need dealers: the institutional investors that create and redeem ETF shares have so far had to rely either on voice-trading or RFQ systems.

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