Correlation in corporate defaults: Contagion or conditional independence?
We revisit a method used by Das et al. (2007) (DDKS) who jointly test and reject a specification of firm default intensities and the doubly stochastic assumption in intensity models of default. The method relies on a time change result for counting processes. With an almost identical set of default histories recorded by Moody's in the period from 1982 to 2006, but using a different specification of the default intensity, we cannot reject the tests based on time change used in DDKS. We then note that the method proposed by DDKS is mainly a misspecification test in that it has very limited power in detecting violations of the doubly stochastic assumption. For example, it will not detect contagion which spreads through the explanatory variables "covariates" that determine the default intensities of individual firms. Therefore, we perform a different test using a Hawkes process alternative to see if firm-specific variables are affected by occurrences of defaults, but find no evidence of default contagion.
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