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Corporate Bond Default Risk: A 150-Year Perspective

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  • Kay Giesecke
  • Francis A. Longstaff
  • Stephen Schaefer
  • Ilya Strebulaev

Abstract

We study corporate bond default rates using an extensive new data set spanning the 1866–2008 period. We find that the corporate bond market has repeatedly suffered clustered default events much worse than those experienced during the Great Depression. For example, during the railroad crisis of 1873–1875, total defaults amounted to 36 percent of the par value of the entire corporate bond market. We examine whether corporate default rates are best forecast by structural, reduced-form, or macroeconomic credit models and find that variables suggested by structural models outperform the others. Default events are only weakly correlated with business downturns. We find that over the long term, credit spreads are roughly twice as large as default losses, resulting in an average credit risk premium of about 80 basis points. We also find that credit spreads do not adjust in response to realized default rates.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 15848.

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Date of creation: Mar 2010
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Publication status: published as Corporate Bond Default Risk: A 150-Year Perspective (with K. Giesecke, I. Strebulaev, and S. Schaefer), Journal of Financial Economics 102, 233-250, 2011.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15848

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Cited by:
  1. Kay Giesecke & Francis A. Longstaff & Stephen Schaefer & Ilya Strebulaev, 2012. "Macroeconomic Effects of Corporate Default Crises: A Long-Term Perspective," NBER Working Papers 17854, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Georges Dionne & Geneviève Gauthier & Khemais Hammami & Mathieu Maurice & Jean-Guy Simonato, 2007. "A Reduced Form Model of Default Spreads with Markov Switching Macroeconomic Factors," Cahiers de recherche 0741, CIRPEE.
  3. Hanno Lustig, 2011. "Why Does the Treasury Issue TIPS? The TIPS-Treasury Bond Puzzle," 2011 Meeting Papers 1443, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  4. Füss, Roland & Gehrig, Thomas & Rindler, Philipp B, 2011. "Scattered Trust - Did the 2007-08 financial crisis change risk perceptions?," CEPR Discussion Papers 8714, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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