The COVID-19 era proved a mixed bag for the US corporate world: for those companies like Zoom or Peloton whose products were conducive to the new social reality, it was a boon, but for others it represented an existential challenge that could only be endured in the hope of better days ahead. In both cases, however, financing was freely available thanks to the Federal Reserve’s expansive monetary stimulus, whether deployed for debt consolidation, expansion, or simply survival.

Hence the surge in corporate borrowing through the early pandemic period, when firms took advantage of favorable rates and amassed significant new liabilities. In 2020 alone, nonfinancial companies issued $1.7 trillion in new bonds – nearly $600 million more than the previous high. One year later corporate debt accumulation exceeded its long-term trend line by over 10%.