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An empirical evaluation of structural credit risk models

  • Nikola A. Tarashev

This paper evaluates empirically the performance of six structural credit risk models by comparing the probabilities of default (PDs) they deliver to ex post default rates. In contrast to previous studies pursuing similar objectives, the paper employs firm-level data and finds that theory-based PDs tend to match closely the actual level of credit risk and to account for its time path. At the same time, nonmodelled macro variables from the financial and real sides of the economy help to substantially improve the forecasts of default rates. The finding suggests that theory-based PDs fail to fully reflect the dependence of credit risk on the business and credit cycles. Most of the upbeat conclusions regarding the performance of the PDs are due to models with endogenous default. For their part, frameworks that assume exogenous default tend to underpredict credit risk. Three borrower characteristics influence materially the predictions of the models: the leverage ratio; the default recovery rate; and the risk-free rate of return.

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Paper provided by Bank for International Settlements in its series BIS Working Papers with number 179.

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Length: 48 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2005
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:bis:biswps:179
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  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. 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.
  3. Estrella, Arturo & Hardouvelis, Gikas A, 1991. " The Term Structure as a Predictor of Real Economic Activity," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(2), pages 555-76, June.
  4. Leland, Hayne E, 1994. " Corporate Debt Value, Bond Covenants, and Optimal Capital Structure," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 49(4), pages 1213-52, September.
  5. Sanjiv R. Das & Darrell Duffie & Nikunj Kapadia & Leandro Saita, 2007. "Common Failings: How Corporate Defaults Are Correlated," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(1), pages 93-117, 02.
  6. Amato, Jeffery D. & Furfine, Craig H., 2004. "Are credit ratings procyclical?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(11), pages 2641-2677, November.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 449-70, May.
  9. Anderson, Ronald W. & Sundaresan, Suresh & Tychon, Pierre, 1996. "Strategic analysis of contingent claims," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(3-5), pages 871-881, April.
  10. Hayne E. Leland and Klaus Bjerre Toft., 1995. "Optimal Capital Structure, Endogenous Bankruptcy, and the Term Structure of Credit Spreads," Research Program in Finance Working Papers RPF-259, University of California at Berkeley.
  11. Kostas Tsatsaronis & Frank Smets, 1997. "Why does the yield curve predict economic activity? Dissecting the evidence for Germany and the United States," BIS Working Papers 49, Bank for International Settlements.
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