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Interest Rates and Credit Risk

  • González-Aguado, Carlos
  • Suarez, Javier

This paper explores the effects of shifts in interest rates on corporate leverage and default. We develop a dynamic model in which the relationship between firms and their outside financiers is affected by a moral hazard problem and entrepreneurs' initial wealth is scarce. The endogenous link between leverage and default risk comes from the lower incentives of overindebted entrepreneurs to guarantee the survival of their firms. Firms start up with leverage typically higher than some state-contingent target leverage ratio, and adjust gradually to it through earnings retention. The dynamic response of leverage and default to cut and rises in interest rates is both asymmetric (since it is easier to adjust to a higher target leverage than to a lower one) and heterogeneously distributed across firms (since interest rates affect the burden of outstanding leverage, which differs across firms). We find that both interest rate rises and interest rate cuts increase the aggregate default rate in the short-run. Instead, higher rates produce lower default rates in the longer run since they induce lower target leverage across all firms. These results help rationalize some of the empirical evidence regarding the so-called risk-taking channel of monetary policy.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 8398.

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Date of creation: May 2011
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:8398
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  1. Weise, Charles L, 1999. "The Asymmetric Effects of Monetary Policy: A Nonlinear Vector Autoregression Approach," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 31(1), pages 85-108, February.
  2. Jacobson, Tor & Kindell, Rikard & Lindé, Jesper & Roszbach, Kasper F., 2008. "Firm Default and Aggregate Fluctuations," CEPR Discussion Papers 7083, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Gina Luca Clementi & Hugo A Hopenhayn, 2006. "A Theory of Financing Constraints and Firm Dynamics," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(1), pages 229-265, 02.
  4. Dirk Hackbarth & Jianjun Miao & Erwan Morellec, 2004. "Capital Structure, Credit Risk, and Macroeconomic Conditions," FAME Research Paper Series rp125, International Center for Financial Asset Management and Engineering.
  5. Repullo,R. & Suarez,J., 1996. "Entrepreneurial Moral Hazard and Bank Monitoring: A Model of the Credit Channel," Papers 9604, Centro de Estudios Monetarios Y Financieros-.
  6. Cover, James Peery, 1992. "Asymmetric Effects of Positive and Negative Money-Supply Shocks," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 107(4), pages 1261-82, November.
  7. Raghuram G. Rajan, 2005. "Has financial development made the world riskier?," Proceedings - Economic Policy Symposium - Jackson Hole, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, issue Aug, pages 313-369.
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