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Abstract: The $350 billion contraction in the asset-backed commercial paper (ABCP) market in the last five months of 2007 played a central role in transforming concerns about the credit quality of mortgage-related assets into a global financial crisis. This paper attempts to better understand why the substantial contraction in ABCP occurred by measuring and analyzing runs on ABCP programs over the period from August 2007 through December 2007. While it has been suggested that commercial paper programs, like commercial banks, may be prone to runs, we are the first to conduct a comprehensive empirical analysis of runs in the ABCP market using a rich and novel issue-level data set for all ABCP programs in the U.S. market. A program is defined as being run when it does not issue new paper during a week despite having a substantial share of its outstandings scheduled to mature, and then continuing in a run until it issues. We find evidence of extensive runs: more than 100 programs (one-third of all ABCP programs) were in a run within weeks of the onset of the turmoil and the odds of subsequently leaving the run state were very low. We interpret this finding as an indication that the ABCP market was subject to a bank-like "panic." We also find that while runs were linked to credit and liquidity exposures of individual programs, runs were also related importantly to non-program specific variables in the first several weeks of the turmoil, indicating that runs were relatively indiscriminate during the early part of the panic. Thus the ABCP market may be inherently unstable and a source of systemic risk.

Keywords: Commercial paper, asset-backed commercial paper, bank runs, financial crisis, panics

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