When Party City Holdco Inc. reported a large decline in quarterly earnings in November, holders of the retailer’s junk-rated debt scrambled to sell. Buyers were hard to find, and prices cratered by as much as 50% before recovering some of the loss.

Investors who didn’t sell the company’s bonds and loans took paper losses of about half a billion dollars in five trading days, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from MarketAxess and IHS Markit. It was the largest price move since Party City issued the debt.

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