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The "Greatest" Carry Trade Ever? Understanding Eurozone Bank Risks

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  • Acharya, Viral V
  • Steffen, Sascha
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    Abstract

    This paper argues that the European banking crisis can in part be explained by a “carry trade” behavior of banks. Factor loading estimates from multifactor models relating equity returns to GIPSI (Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy) and German government bond returns suggest that banks have been long peripheral sovereign bonds funded in short-term wholesale markets, a position that generated “carry” until the GIPSI bond returns deteriorated significantly inflicting significant losses on banks. We show that the positive GIPSI factor loadings reflect actual portfolio holdings of GIPSI bonds in the cross-section of banks; and, the negative German loading reflects funding risk (flight away from bank funding to German government bonds), a risk that is increasing in the US money market mutual fund exposures of European banks as well as various proxies for bank short-term debt. Large banks and banks with low Tier 1 ratios and high risk-weighted assets had particularly large exposures and even increased their exposures between the two European stress tests of March and December 2010 taking advantage of a widening of yield spreads in the sovereign bond market. Over time, there is an increase in “home bias” – greater exposure of domestic banks to its sovereign’s bonds – which is partly explained by the European Central Bank funding of these positions. On balance, our results are supportive of moral hazard in the form of risk-taking by under-capitalized banks to exploit low risk weights and central-bank funding of risky government bond positions.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9432.

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    Date of creation: Apr 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9432

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    Related research

    Keywords: banking crisis; home bias; regulatory arbitrage; risk-shifting; sovereign debt crisis;

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    Cited by:
    1. Anne Laure Delatte, 2014. "Nonlinearities in sovereign risk pricing the role of cds index contracts," Documents de Travail de l'OFCE 2014-08, Observatoire Francais des Conjonctures Economiques (OFCE).
    2. Beck, Thorsten & De Jonghe, Olivier, 2013. "Lending concentration, bank performance and systemic risk : exploring cross-country variation," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6604, The World Bank.
    3. Paolo Angelini & Giuseppe Grande & Fabio Panetta, 2014. "The negative feedback loop between banks and sovereigns," Questioni di Economia e Finanza (Occasional Papers) 213, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
    4. Michele Fratianni & Francesco Marchionne, 2014. "Bank asset reallocation and sovereign debt," Working Papers 2014-09, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Department of Business Economics and Public Policy.
    5. Galina Hale & Maurice Obstfeld, 2014. "The Euro and The Geography of International Debt Flows," NBER Working Papers 20033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Correa, Ricardo & Sapriza, Horacio, 2014. "Sovereign Debt Crises," International Finance Discussion Papers 1104, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    7. Harald Uhlig, 2013. "Sovereign Default Risk and Banks in a Monetary Union," NBER Working Papers 19343, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Serkan Arslanalp & Tigran Poghosyan, 2014. "Foreign Investor Flows and Sovereign Bond Yields in Advanced Economies," IMF Working Papers 14/27, International Monetary Fund.
    9. Russell Cooper & Kalin Nikolov, 2013. "Government Debt and Banking Fragility: The Spreading of Strategic Uncertainty," NBER Working Papers 19278, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Buch, Claudia M. & Koetter, Michael & Ohls, Jana, 2013. "Banks and sovereign risk: A granular view," Discussion Papers 29/2013, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.

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