IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/a/eee/jfinec/v102y2011i2p233-250.html
   My bibliography  Save this article

Corporate bond default risk: A 150-year perspective

Author

Listed:
  • Giesecke, Kay
  • Longstaff, Francis A.
  • Schaefer, Stephen
  • Strebulaev, Ilya

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% of the par value of the entire corporate bond market. Using a regime-switching model, we examine the extent to which default rates can be forecast by financial and macroeconomic variables. We find that stock returns, stock return volatility, and changes in GDP are strong predictors of default rates. Surprisingly, however, credit spreads are not. 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Giesecke, Kay & Longstaff, Francis A. & Schaefer, Stephen & Strebulaev, Ilya, 2011. "Corporate bond default risk: A 150-year perspective," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 233-250.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:102:y:2011:i:2:p:233-250
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2011.01.011
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304405X11001450
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only
    ---><---

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Duffie, Darrell & Saita, Leandro & Wang, Ke, 2007. "Multi-period corporate default prediction with stochastic covariates," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(3), pages 635-665, March.
    2. Antje Berndt & Rohan Douglas & Darrell Duffie & Mark Ferguson, "undated". "Measuring Default Risk Premia from Default Swap Rates and EDFs," GSIA Working Papers 2006-E31, Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business.
    3. Schwert, G William, 1990. "Indexes of U.S. Stock Prices from 1802 to 1987," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63(3), pages 399-426, July.
    4. Goldstein, Robert & Ju, Nengjiu & Leland, Hayne, 2001. "An EBIT-Based Model of Dynamic Capital Structure," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(4), pages 483-512, October.
    5. John Y. Campbell & Jens Hilscher & Jan Szilagyi, 2008. "In Search of Distress Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(6), pages 2899-2939, December.
    6. Duffee, Gregory R, 1999. "Estimating the Price of Default Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(1), pages 197-226.
    7. Leland, Hayne E, 1994. "Corporate Debt Value, Bond Covenants, and Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1213-1252, September.
    8. Black, Fischer & Cox, John C, 1976. "Valuing Corporate Securities: Some Effects of Bond Indenture Provisions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 31(2), pages 351-367, May.
    9. 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 449-470, May.
    10. Robert A. Jarrow & David Lando & Fan Yu, 2008. "Default Risk And Diversification: Theory And Empirical Implications," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Financial Derivatives Pricing Selected Works of Robert Jarrow, chapter 19, pages 455-480, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    11. Efraim Benmelech, 2009. "Asset Salability and Debt Maturity: Evidence from Nineteenth-Century American Railroads," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 22(4), pages 1545-1584, April.
    12. 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.
    13. Edwin J. Elton & Martin J. Gruber & Deepak Agrawal & Christopher Mann, 2001. "Explaining the Rate Spread on Corporate Bonds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(1), pages 247-277, February.
    14. Joost Driessen, 2005. "Is Default Event Risk Priced in Corporate Bonds?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 18(1), pages 165-195.
    15. Pierre Collin‐Dufresne & Robert S. Goldstein, 2001. "Do Credit Spreads Reflect Stationary Leverage Ratios?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1929-1957, October.
    16. Robert C. Merton, 2005. "Theory of rational option pricing," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Sudipto Bhattacharya & George M Constantinides (ed.), Theory Of Valuation, chapter 8, pages 229-288, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    17. Duffie, Darrell & Lando, David, 2001. "Term Structures of Credit Spreads with Incomplete Accounting Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(3), pages 633-664, May.
    18. Duffie, Darrell & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1999. "Modeling Term Structures of Defaultable Bonds," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(4), pages 687-720.
    19. Edward I. Altman & Brooks Brady & Andrea Resti & Andrea Sironi, 2005. "The Link between Default and Recovery Rates: Theory, Empirical Evidence, and Implications," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(6), pages 2203-2228, November.
    20. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-654, May-June.
    21. Robert A. Jarrow & David Lando & Stuart M. Turnbull, 2008. "A Markov Model for the Term Structure of Credit Risk Spreads," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Financial Derivatives Pricing Selected Works of Robert Jarrow, chapter 18, pages 411-453, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    22. Beaver, Wh, 1966. "Financial Ratios As Predictors Of Failure," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 4, pages 71-111.
    23. Efraim Benmelech & Tobias J. Moskowitz, 2010. "The Political Economy of Financial Regulation: Evidence from U.S. State Usury Laws in the 19th Century," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 65(3), pages 1029-1073, June.
    24. Maria Vassalou & Yuhang Xing, 2004. "Default Risk in Equity Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(2), pages 831-868, April.
    25. Duffie, Darrell & Singleton, Kenneth J, 1997. "An Econometric Model of the Term Structure of Interest-Rate Swap Yields," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(4), pages 1287-1321, September.
    26. Sergei A. Davydenko & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2007. "Strategic Actions and Credit Spreads: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(6), pages 2633-2671, December.
    27. O'Hara, Maureen & Easley, David, 1979. "The Postal Savings System in the Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(3), pages 741-753, September.
    28. Franks, Julian & Sussman, Oren, 2005. "Financial innovations and corporate bankruptcy," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 283-317, July.
    29. Robert A. Jarrow & Stuart M. Turnbull, 2008. "Pricing Derivatives on Financial Securities Subject to Credit Risk," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Financial Derivatives Pricing Selected Works of Robert Jarrow, chapter 17, pages 377-409, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    30. Edward I. Altman, 1968. "Financial Ratios, Discriminant Analysis And The Prediction Of Corporate Bankruptcy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(4), pages 589-609, September.
    31. 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.
    32. Martha L. Olney, 1999. "Avoiding Default: The Role of Credit in the Consumption Collapse of 1930," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 319-335.
    33. Priyank Gandhi & Hanno Lustig, 2015. "Size Anomalies in U.S. Bank Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 70(2), pages 733-768, April.
    34. Harjoat S. Bhamra & Lars-Alexander Kuehn & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2010. "The Aggregate Dynamics of Capital Structure and Macroeconomic Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(12), pages 4187-4241, December.
    35. Bernanke, Ben S, 1981. "Bankruptcy, Liquidity, and Recession," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 155-159, May.
    36. Harjoat S. Bhamra & Lars-Alexander Kuehn & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2010. "The Levered Equity Risk Premium and Credit Spreads: A Unified Framework," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(2), pages 645-703, February.
    37. Shumway, Tyler, 2001. "Forecasting Bankruptcy More Accurately: A Simple Hazard Model," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 74(1), pages 101-124, January.
    38. Heitor Almeida & Thomas Philippon, 2007. "The Risk‐Adjusted Cost of Financial Distress," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(6), pages 2557-2586, December.
    39. Ohlson, Ja, 1980. "Financial Ratios And The Probabilistic Prediction Of Bankruptcy," Journal of Accounting Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(1), pages 109-131.
    40. In Joon Kim & Krishna Ramaswamy & Suresh Sundaresan, 1993. "Does Default Risk in Coupons Affect the Valuation of Corporate Bonds?: A Contingent Claims Model," Financial Management, Financial Management Association, vol. 22(3), Fall.
    41. Francis A. Longstaff & Arvind Rajan, 2008. "An Empirical Analysis of the Pricing of Collateralized Debt Obligations," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 63(2), pages 529-563, April.
    42. Sarig, Oded & Warga, Arthur, 1989. " Some Empirical Estimates of the Risk Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(5), pages 1351-1360, December.
    43. Young Ho Eom, 2004. "Structural Models of Corporate Bond Pricing: An Empirical Analysis," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 17(2), pages 499-544.
    44. Ilia D. Dichev, 1998. "Is the Risk of Bankruptcy a Systematic Risk?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(3), pages 1131-1147, June.
    45. Longstaff, Francis A & Schwartz, Eduardo S, 1995. "A Simple Approach to Valuing Risky Fixed and Floating Rate Debt," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(3), pages 789-819, July.
    46. Altman, Edward I, 1989. " Measuring Corporate Bond Mortality and Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(4), pages 909-922, September.
    47. Fons, Jerome S, 1987. "The Default Premium and Corporate Bond Experience," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(1), pages 81-97, March.
    48. Bernanke, Ben S, 1983. "Nonmonetary Effects of the Financial Crisis in Propagation of the Great Depression," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(3), pages 257-276, June.
    49. 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.
    50. Thomas A. Garrett, 2007. "The rise in personal bankruptcies: the Eighth Federal Reserve District and beyond," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, vol. 89(Jan), pages 15-38.
    51. Geske, Robert, 1977. "The Valuation of Corporate Liabilities as Compound Options," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 541-552, November.
    52. Pierre Collin-Dufresn & Robert S. Goldstein & J. Spencer Martin, 2001. "The Determinants of Credit Spread Changes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(6), pages 2177-2207, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Kay Giesecke & Francis A. Longstaff & Stephen Schaefer & Ilya Strebulaev, 2010. "Corporate Bond Default Risk: A 150-Year Perspective," NBER Working Papers 15848, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. repec:wyi:journl:002109 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Lim, Terence & Lo, Andrew W. & Merton, Robert C. & Scholes, Myron S., 2006. "The Derivatives Sourcebook," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 1(5–6), pages 365-572, April.
    4. Maclachlan, Iain C, 2007. "An empirical study of corporate bond pricing with unobserved capital structure dynamics," MPRA Paper 28416, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. Antonio Trujillo-Ponce & Reyes Samaniego-Medina & Clara Cardone-Riportella, 2014. "Examining what best explains corporate credit risk: accounting-based versus market-based models," Journal of Business Economics and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 15(2), pages 253-276, April.
    6. Augustin, Patrick & Subrahmanyam, Marti G. & Tang, Dragon Yongjun & Wang, Sarah Qian, 2014. "Credit Default Swaps: A Survey," Foundations and Trends(R) in Finance, now publishers, vol. 9(1-2), pages 1-196, December.
    7. Bhanu Pratap Singh Thakur & M. Kannadhasan & Vinay Goyal, 2018. "Determinants of corporate credit spread: evidence from India," DECISION: Official Journal of the Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, Springer;Indian Institute of Management Calcutta, vol. 45(1), pages 59-73, March.
    8. Chen, An-Sing & Chu, Hsiang-Hui & Hung, Pi-Hsia & Cheng, Miao-Sih, 2020. "Financial risk and acquirers' stockholder wealth in mergers and acquisitions," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 54(C).
    9. Duffie, Darrell, 2005. "Credit risk modeling with affine processes," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 2751-2802, November.
    10. Dragon Tang & Hong Yan, 2006. "Macroeconomic Conditions, Firm Characteristics, and Credit Spreads," Journal of Financial Services Research, Springer;Western Finance Association, vol. 29(3), pages 177-210, June.
    11. Becchetti, Leonardo & Carpentieri, Andrea & Hasan, Iftekhar, 2009. "The determinants of option-adjusted delta credit spreads : a comparative analysis of the United States, the United Kingdom and the euro area," Research Discussion Papers 34/2009, Bank of Finland.
    12. Jens Hilscher & Mungo Wilson, 2017. "Credit Ratings and Credit Risk: Is One Measure Enough?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 63(10), pages 3414-3437, October.
    13. Afik, Zvika & Arad, Ohad & Galil, Koresh, 2016. "Using Merton model for default prediction: An empirical assessment of selected alternatives," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(C), pages 43-67.
    14. Perrakis, Stylianos & Zhong, Rui, 2015. "Credit spreads and state-dependent volatility: Theory and empirical evidence," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 215-231.
    15. Gregory Connor & Lisa R. Goldberg & Robert A. Korajczyk, 2010. "Portfolio Risk Analysis," Economics Books, Princeton University Press, edition 1, number 9224.
    16. Stephen Zamore & Kwame Ohene Djan & Ilan Alon & Bersant Hobdari, 2018. "Credit Risk Research: Review and Agenda," Emerging Markets Finance and Trade, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 54(4), pages 811-835, March.
    17. Jun Yang, 2008. "Macroeconomic Determinants of the Term Structure of Corporate Spreads," Staff Working Papers 08-29, Bank of Canada.
    18. Reisz, Alexander S. & Perlich, Claudia, 2007. "A market-based framework for bankruptcy prediction," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 85-131, July.
    19. Martin Dòzsa & Karel Janda, 2015. "Corporate asset pricing models and debt contracts," CAMA Working Papers 2015-33, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
    20. Viral Acharya & Sergei A. Davydenko & Ilya A. Strebulaev, 2012. "Cash Holdings and Credit Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 25(12), pages 3572-3609.
    21. Zvika Afik & Ohad Arad & Koresh Galil, 2012. "Using Merton model: an empirical assessment of alternatives," Working Papers 1202, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Department of Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Default rates; Bankruptcy; Credit spreads; Credit risk premium;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • N21 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: Pre-1913
    • N22 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - U.S.; Canada: 1913-

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:102:y:2011:i:2:p:233-250. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Nithya Sathishkumar). General contact details of provider: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505576 .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.