IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this article

Corporate bond default risk: A 150-year perspective

Listed author(s):
  • Giesecke, Kay
  • Longstaff, Francis A.
  • Schaefer, Stephen
  • Strebulaev, Ilya
Registered author(s):

    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.

    If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

    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 look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Financial Economics.

    Volume (Year): 102 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 2 ()
    Pages: 233-250

    as
    in new window

    Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:102:y:2011:i:2:p:233-250
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2011.01.011
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505576

    References listed on IDEAS
    Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:

    as
    in new window


    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Robert C. Merton, 2005. "Theory of rational option pricing," World Scientific Book Chapters,in: Theory Of Valuation, chapter 8, pages 229-288 World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    5. 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.
    6. O'Hara, Maureen & Easley, David, 1979. "The Postal Savings System in the Depression," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(03), pages 741-753, September.
    7. Franks, Julian & Sussman, Oren, 2005. "Financial innovations and corporate bankruptcy," Journal of Financial Intermediation, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 283-317, July.
    8. 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..
    9. 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, 09.
    10. 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.
    11. 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.
    12. 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.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. 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.
    16. Duffee, Gregory R, 1999. "Estimating the Price of Default Risk," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(1), pages 197-226.
    17. 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.
    18. Bernanke, Ben S, 1981. "Bankruptcy, Liquidity, and Recession," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 71(2), pages 155-159, May.
    19. 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.
    20. 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.
    21. 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..
    22. 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.
    23. 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.
    24. repec:bla:joares:v:18:y:1980:i:1:p:109-131 is not listed on IDEAS
    25. 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.
    26. 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, 04.
    27. 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.
    28. 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.
    29. Ilia D. Dichev, 1998. "Is the Risk of Bankruptcy a Systematic Risk?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(3), pages 1131-1147, 06.
    30. 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.
    31. 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.
    32. Edwin J. Elton, 2001. "Explaining the Rate Spread on Corporate Bonds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(1), pages 247-277, 02.
    33. 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.
    34. Altman, Edward I, 1989. " Measuring Corporate Bond Mortality and Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(4), pages 909-922, September.
    35. Fons, Jerome S, 1987. " The Default Premium and Corporate Bond Experience," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(1), pages 81-97, March.
    36. 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.
    37. 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.
    38. Pierre Collin-Dufresne, 2001. "Do Credit Spreads Reflect Stationary Leverage Ratios?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1929-1957, October.
    39. 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.
    40. Thomas A. Garrett, 2007. "The rise in personal bankruptcies: the Eighth Federal Reserve District and beyond," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 15-38.
    41. 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, 06.
    42. 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.
    43. Duffie, Darrell & Lando, David, 2001. "Term Structures of Credit Spreads with Incomplete Accounting Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 69(3), pages 633-664, May.
    44. 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.
    45. 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.
    46. 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.
    47. 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..
    48. Geske, Robert, 1977. "The Valuation of Corporate Liabilities as Compound Options," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(04), pages 541-552, November.
    49. Pierre Collin-Dufresne, 2001. "The Determinants of Credit Spread Changes," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(6), pages 2177-2207, December.
    50. repec:bla:joares:v:4:y:1966:i::p:71-111 is not listed on IDEAS
    51. Maria Vassalou & Yuhang Xing, 2004. "Default Risk in Equity Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(2), pages 831-868, 04.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    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: (Dana Niculescu)

    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 references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link 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 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.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.