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A General Equilibrium Model of Sovereign Default and Business Cycles

  • Enrique G. Mendoza
  • Vivian Z. Yue

Why are episodes of sovereign default accompanied by deep recessions? The existing literature cannot answer this question. On one hand, sovereign default models treat income fluctuations as an exogenous endowment process with ad hoc default costs. On the other hand, emerging markets business cycle models abstract from modeling default and treat default risk as part of an exogenous interest rate on working capital. We propose instead a general equilibrium model of both sovereign default and business cycles. In the model, some imported inputs require working capital financing, and default triggers an efficiency loss as these inputs are replaced by imperfect substitutes, because both firms and the government are excluded from credit markets. Default is an optimal decision of a benevolent planner for whom, even after internalizing the adverse effects of default on economic activity, financial autarky has a higher payoff than debt repayment. The model explains the main features of observed cyclical dynamics around defaults, countercyclical spreads, high debt ratios, and key long-run business cycle moments. Copyright 2012, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Quarterly Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 127 (2012)
Issue (Month): 2 ()
Pages: 889-946

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Handle: RePEc:oup:qjecon:v:127:y:2012:i:2:p:889-946
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