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Treasury yields and corporate bond yield spreads: an empirical analysis

  • Gregory R. Duffee

This paper empirically examines the relation between the Treasury term structure and spreads of investment grade corporate bond yields over Treasuries. I find that noncallable bond yield spreads fall when the level of the Treasury term structure rises. The extent of this decline depends on the initial credit quality of the bond; the decline is small for Aaa-rated bonds and large for Baa-rated bonds. The role of the business cycle in generating this pattern is explored, as is the link between yield spreads and default risk. I also argue that yield spreads based on commonly-used bond yield indexes are contaminated in two important ways. The first is that they are ``refreshed'' indexes, which hold credit ratings constant over time; the second is that they usually are constructed with both callable and noncallable bonds. The impact of both of these problems is examined.

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Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 96-20.

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Date of creation: 1996
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:96-20
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  1. Scholes, Myron & Williams, Joseph, 1977. "Estimating betas from nonsynchronous data," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 309-327, December.
  2. Arturo Estrella & Frederic S. Mishkin, 1995. "Predicting U.S. Recessions: Financial Variables as Leading Indicators," NBER Working Papers 5379, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Cooper, Ian A & Mello, Antonio S, 1991. " The Default Risk of Swaps," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(2), pages 597-620, June.
  4. Jarrow, Robert A & Lando, David & Turnbull, Stuart M, 1997. "A Markov Model for the Term Structure of Credit Risk Spreads," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(2), pages 481-523.
  5. Stock, J.H. & Watson, M.W., 1989. "New Indexes Of Coincident And Leading Economic Indicators," Papers 178d, Harvard - J.F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Arturo Estrella & Gikas A. Hardouvelis, 1989. "The term structure as a predictor of real economic activity," Research Paper 8907, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  7. Chen, Nai-Fu, 1991. " Financial Investment Opportunities and the Macroeconomy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(2), pages 529-54, June.
  8. Cornell, Bradford & Green, Kevin, 1991. " The Investment Performance of Low-Grade Bond Funds," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(1), pages 29-48, March.
  9. Nunn, Kenneth P. & Hill, Joanne & Schneeweis, Thomas, 1986. "Corporate Bond Price Data Sources and Return/Risk Measurement," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(02), pages 197-208, June.
  10. Severn, Alan K. & Stewart, William J., 1992. "The corporate-treasury yield spread and state taxes," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 44(2), pages 161-166, May.
  11. Grinblatt, Mark, 1995. "An Analytic Solution for Interest Rate Swap Spreads," University of California at Los Angeles, Anderson Graduate School of Management qt9s13f3zx, Anderson Graduate School of Management, UCLA.
  12. 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.
  13. Kwan, Simon H., 1996. "Firm-specific information and the correlation between individual stocks and bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 40(1), pages 63-80, January.
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