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Estimating the price of default risk

  • Gregory R. Duffee

A firm's instantaneous probability of default is modeled as a square-root diffusion process. The parameters of these processes are estimated for 188 firms, using both the time series and cross-sectional (term structure) properties of the individual firms' bond prices. Although the estimated models are moderately successful at bond pricing, there is strong evidence of misspecification. The results indicate that single factor models of instantaneous default risk face a significant challenge in matching certain key features of actual corporate bond yield spreads. In particular, such models have difficulty generating both relatively flat yield spreads when firms have low credit risk and steeper yield spreads when firms have higher credit risk.

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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 96-29.

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Date of creation: 1996
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Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:96-29
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  1. 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.
  2. Schwert, G William, 2002. "Tests for Unit Roots: A Monte Carlo Investigation," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 20(1), pages 5-17, January.
  3. Gregory R. Duffee, 1996. "Treasury yields and corporate bond yield spreads: an empirical analysis," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 96-20, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  4. Jin-Chuan Duan & Jean-Guy Simonato, 1995. "Estimating and Testing Exponential Affine Term Structure Models by Kalman Filter," CIRANO Working Papers 95s-44, CIRANO.
  5. 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.
  6. Duffie, Darrell & Huang, Ming, 1996. " Swap Rates and Credit Quality," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(3), pages 921-49, July.
  7. Merton, Robert C., 1973. "On the pricing of corporate debt: the risk structure of interest rates," Working papers 684-73., Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Sloan School of Management.
  8. Jarrow, Robert A & Turnbull, Stuart M, 1995. " Pricing Derivatives on Financial Securities Subject to Credit Risk," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 50(1), pages 53-85, March.
  9. Jones, E Philip & Mason, Scott P & Rosenfeld, Eric, 1984. " Contingent Claims Analysis of Corporate Capital Structures: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(3), pages 611-25, July.
  10. Fisher, Lawrence, 1984. " Contingent Claims Analysis of Corporate Capital Structures: An Empirical Investigation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(3), pages 625-27, July.
  11. Ball, Clifford A. & Torous, Walter N., 1996. "Unit roots and the estimation of interest rate dynamics," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 3(2), pages 215-238, June.
  12. Sarig, Oded & Warga, Arthur, 1989. " Some Empirical Estimates of the Risk Structure of Interest Rates," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 44(5), pages 1351-60, December.
  13. 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.
  14. Cox, John C & Ingersoll, Jonathan E, Jr & Ross, Stephen A, 1985. "A Theory of the Term Structure of Interest Rates," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(2), pages 385-407, March.
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