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Default Risk and Equity Returns: A Comparison of the Bank-Based German and the U.S. Financial System

Author

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  • Breig, Christoph
  • Elsas, Ralf

Abstract

In this paper, we address the question whether the impact of default risk on equity returns depends on the financial system firms operate in. Using an implementation of Merton's option-pricing model for the value of equity to estimate firms' default risk, we construct a factor that measures the excess return of firms with low default risk over firms with high default risk. We then compare results from asset pricing tests for the German and the U.S. stock markets. Since Germany is the prime example of a bank-based financial system, where debt is supposedly a major instrument of corporate governance, we expect that a systematic default risk effect on equity returns should be more pronounced for German rather than U.S. firms. Our evidence suggests that a higher firm default risk systematically leads to lower returns in both capital markets. This contradicts some previous results for the U.S. by Vassalou/Xing (2004), but we show that their default risk factor looses its explanatory power if one includes a default risk factor measured as a factor mimicking portfolio. It further turns out that the composition of corporate debt affects equity returns in Germany. Firms' default risk sensitivities are attenuated the more a firm depends on bank debt financing.

Suggested Citation

  • Breig, Christoph & Elsas, Ralf, 2009. "Default Risk and Equity Returns: A Comparison of the Bank-Based German and the U.S. Financial System," Discussion Papers in Business Administration 10978, University of Munich, Munich School of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:lmu:msmdpa:10978
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    File URL: https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/10978/2/Breig_Elsas_Paper_v1r14b.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Galai, Dan & Masulis, Ronald W., 1976. "The option pricing model and the risk factor of stock," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(1-2), pages 53-81.
    2. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-1054, July.
    3. John M. Griffin & Michael L. Lemmon, 2002. "Book-to-Market Equity, Distress Risk, and Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 57(5), pages 2317-2336, October.
    4. Lorenzo Garlappi & Hong Yan, 2011. "Financial Distress and the Cross‐section of Equity Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 66(3), pages 789-822, June.
    5. 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 449-470, May.
    6. repec:bla:joares:v:18:y:1980:i:1:p:109-131 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Murray Carlson & Adlai Fisher & Ron Giammarino, 2004. "Corporate Investment and Asset Price Dynamics: Implications for the Cross-section of Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 59(6), pages 2577-2603, December.
    8. Murillo Campello & Long Chen, 2010. "Are Financial Constraints Priced? Evidence from Firm Fundamentals and Stock Returns," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 42(6), pages 1185-1198, September.
    9. Andreas Schrimpf & Michael Schröder & Richard Stehle, 2007. "Cross-sectional Tests of Conditional Asset Pricing Models: Evidence from the German Stock Market," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 13(5), pages 880-907.
    10. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1996. " Multifactor Explanations of Asset Pricing Anomalies," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 55-84, March.
    11. Elsas, Ralf & El-Shaer, Mahmoud & Theissen, Erik, 2003. "Beta and returns revisited: Evidence from the German stock market," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 13(1), pages 1-18, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. Artmann, Sabine & Finter, Philipp & Kempf, Alexander, 2011. "Determinants of expected stock returns: Large sample evidence from the German market," CFR Working Papers 10-01 [rev.], University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).
    2. Artmann, Sabine & Finter, Philipp & Kempf, Alexander, 2010. "Determinants of expected stock returns: Large sample evidence from the German market," CFR Working Papers 10-01, University of Cologne, Centre for Financial Research (CFR).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Asset pricing; Stochastic Discount Factor; Default Risk;

    JEL classification:

    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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