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Credit Spreads and Business Cycle Fluctuations

  • Simon Gilchrist
  • Egon Zakrajsek

Using micro-level data, we construct a credit spread index with considerable predictive power for future economic activity. We decompose the credit spread into a component that captures firm-specific information on expected defaults and a residual component--the excess bond premium. Shocks to the excess bond premium that are orthogonal to the current state of the economy lead to declines in economic activity and asset prices. An increase in the excess bond premium appears to reflect a reduction in the risk-bearing capacity of the financial sector, which induces a contraction in the supply of credit and a deterioration in macroeconomic conditions.

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Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Review.

Volume (Year): 102 (2012)
Issue (Month): 4 (June)
Pages: 1692-1720

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:102:y:2012:i:4:p:1692-1720
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  1. Jon Faust & Simon Gilchrist & Jonathan H. Wright & Egon Zakrajsek, 2012. "Credit spreads as predictors of real-time economic activity: a Bayesian Model-Averaging approach," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2012-77, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  2. Merton, Robert C, 1974. "On the Pricing of Corporate Debt: The Risk Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 29(2), pages 449-70, May.
  3. Gilchrist, Simon & Yankov, Vladimir & Zakrajsek, Egon, 2009. "Credit market shocks and economic fluctuations: Evidence from corporate bond and stock markets," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 56(4), pages 471-493, May.
  4. Gary Gorton, 2009. "Information, Liquidity, and the (Ongoing) Panic of 2007," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(2), pages 567-72, May.
  5. Arturo Estrella & Gikas A. Hardouvelis, 1989. "The term structure as a predictor of real economic activity," Research Paper 8907, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  6. Gregory R. Duffee, 1998. "The Relation Between Treasury Yields and Corporate Bond Yield Spreads," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(6), pages 2225-2241, December.
  7. Schaefer, Stephen M. & Strebulaev, Ilya A., 2008. "Structural models of credit risk are useful: Evidence from hedge ratios on corporate bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 1-19, October.
  8. Hodrick, Robert J, 1992. "Dividend Yields and Expected Stock Returns: Alternative Procedures for Inference and Measurement," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 5(3), pages 357-86.
  9. James H. Stock & Mark W.Watson, 2003. "Forecasting Output and Inflation: The Role of Asset Prices," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 41(3), pages 788-829, September.
  10. Harvey, Campbell R., 1988. "The real term structure and consumption growth," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 305-333, December.
  11. Thomas Philippon, 2009. "The Bond Market's q," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 124(3), pages 1011-1056, August.
  12. Houweling, P. & Mentink, A.A. & Vorst, A.C.F., 2003. "Comparing possible proxies of corporate bond liquidity," Econometric Institute Research Papers EI 2003-49, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Erasmus School of Economics (ESE), Econometric Institute.
  13. Maria Vassalou & Yuhang Xing, 2004. "Default Risk in Equity Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(2), pages 831-868, 04.
  14. Fama, Eugene F, 1981. "Stock Returns, Real Activity, Inflation, and Money," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(4), pages 545-65, September.
  15. Sreedhar T. Bharath & Tyler Shumway, 2008. "Forecasting Default with the Merton Distance to Default Model," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 21(3), pages 1339-1369, May.
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