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The credit spread puzzle

  • Jeffery D Amato
  • Eli M Remolona

Why are spreads on corporate bonds much wider than would be implied by expected losses from default? Previous explanations of this puzzle have assumed that investors can diversify away the risk that actual losses in a corporate bond portfolio will exceed expected losses. However, the skewness in the distribution of corporate bond returns implies that achieving such diversification will require an extraordinarily large portfolio. We present evidence from the market for collateralised debt obligations suggesting that such large portfolios are unattainable. Hence, investors always face the risk that actual losses will exceed expectations. Credit spreads are so wide because they compensate investors for such risk.

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Article provided by Bank for International Settlements in its journal BIS Quarterly Review.

Volume (Year): (2003)
Issue (Month): (December)
Pages:

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Handle: RePEc:bis:bisqtr:0312e
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  1. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 1993. "Common risk factors in the returns on stocks and bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 3-56, February.
  2. Pamela Nickell & William Perraudin & Simone Varotto, 2001. "Stability of ratings transitions," Bank of England working papers 133, Bank of England.
  3. Edwin J. Elton, 2001. "Explaining the Rate Spread on Corporate Bonds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(1), pages 247-277, 02.
  4. Paul Schultz, 2001. "Corporate Bond Trading Costs: A Peek Behind the Curtain," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(2), pages 677-698, 04.
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