Premia for correlated default risk
Using data on corporate default experience in the U.S. and market rates of CDX index and tranche swaps of various maturities, we estimate reduced-form models of correlated default timing in the CDX High Yield and Investment Grade portfolios under actual and risk-neutral probabilities. The striking contrast between the estimated processes followed by the actual and risk-neutral arrival intensities of defaults, and between the parameters governing the actual and risk-neutral dynamics of the risk-neutral intensities, indicates the presence of substantial default risk premia in CDX swap market rates. The effects of risk premia on swap rates covary strongly across maturities, and depend on general stock market volatility and several measures of credit spreads. Large moves in the effects of these premia on swap rates have natural interpretations in terms of economic and financial market developments during the sample period, April 2004 to October 2007. Our results suggest that a large portion of the movements in CDX swap market rates observed during the sample period may be caused by changing attitudes toward correlated default risk rather than changes in the economic factors affecting the actual risk of clustered defaults, which ultimately governs swap payoffs.
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