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PIGS or Lambs? The European Sovereign Debt Crisis and the Role of Rating Agencies

  • Manfred Gärtner


  • Björn Griesbach


  • Florian Jung


This paper asks whether rating agencies played a passive role or were an active driving force during Europe's sovereign debt crisis. We address this by estimating relationships between sovereign debt ratings and macroeconomic and structural variables. We then use these equ-ations to decompose actual ratings into systematic and arbitrary components that are not explained by observed previous procedures of rating agencies. Next, we check whether both systematic and arbitrary parts of credit ratings affect credit spreads. We find that both do, which opens the possibility that arbitrary rating downgrades trigger processes of self-fulfilling prophecy that may drive even relatively healthy countries towards default.

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Article provided by International Atlantic Economic Society in its journal International Advances in Economic Research.

Volume (Year): 17 (2011)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 288-299

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Handle: RePEc:kap:iaecre:v:17:y:2011:i:3:p:288-299
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  1. Edda Zoli & Silvia Sgherri, 2009. "Euro Area Sovereign Risk During the Crisis," IMF Working Papers 09/222, International Monetary Fund.
  2. Simone Manganelli & Guido Wolswijk, 2009. "What drives spreads in the euro area government bond market?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 24, pages 191-240, 04.
  3. António Afonso & Pedro Gomes & Philipp Rother, 2006. "What “Hides” Behind Sovereign Debt Ratings?," Working Papers Department of Economics 2006/35, ISEG - School of Economics and Management, Department of Economics, University of Lisbon.
  4. James Crotty, 2008. "Structural Causes of the Global Financial Crisis: A Critical Assessment of the ‘New Financial Architecture’," Working Papers wp180, Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
  5. Gomez-Puig, Marta, 2006. "Size matters for liquidity: Evidence from EMU sovereign yield spreads," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 90(2), pages 156-162, February.
  6. Roberto Perrelli & Christian B. Mulder, 2001. "Foreign Currency Credit Ratings for Emerging Market Economies," IMF Working Papers 01/191, International Monetary Fund.
  7. Reisen, Helmut & von Maltzan, Julia, 1999. "Boom and Bust and Sovereign Ratings," International Finance, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 2(2), pages 273-93, July.
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  9. Becker, William E. & Kennedy, Peter E., 1992. "A Graphical Exposition of the Ordered Probit," Econometric Theory, Cambridge University Press, vol. 8(01), pages 127-131, March.
  10. Makram El-Shagi, 2010. "The role of rating agencies in financial crises: event studies from the Asian flu," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 34(4), pages 671-685.
  11. Richard Cantor & Frank Packer, 1996. "Determinants and impacts of sovereign credit ratings," Research Paper 9608, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  12. Constantin Mellios & Eric Paget-Blanc, 2006. "Which factors determine sovereign credit ratings?," The European Journal of Finance, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 361-377.
  13. G. Ferri & L.-G. Liu & J. E. Stiglitz, 1999. "The Procyclical Role of Rating Agencies: Evidence from the East Asian Crisis," Economic Notes, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena SpA, vol. 28(3), pages 335-355, November.
  14. Jonathan Eaton & Mark Gersovitz & Joseph E. Stiglitz, 1986. "The Pure Theory of Country Risk," NBER Working Papers 1894, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  15. Barry Eichengreen & Ashoka Mody, 2000. "What Explains Changing Spreads on Emerging Market Debt?," NBER Chapters, in: Capital Flows and the Emerging Economies: Theory, Evidence, and Controversies, pages 107-134 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Block, Steven A. & Vaaler, Paul M., 2004. "The price of democracy: sovereign risk ratings, bond spreads and political business cycles in developing countries," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 23(6), pages 917-946, October.
  17. Sebastian Edwards, 2000. "Capital Flows and the Emerging Economies: Theory, Evidence, and Controversies," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number edwa00-1.
  18. Hu, Yen-Ting & Kiesel, Rudiger & Perraudin, William, 2002. "The estimation of transition matrices for sovereign credit ratings," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 26(7), pages 1383-1406, July.
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