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Pricing Default Risk: The Good, The Bad, and The Anomaly

  • Ferreira Filipe, Sara
  • Grammatikos, Theoharry
  • Michala, Dimitra

While the empirical literature has often documented a “default anomaly”, i.e. a negative relation between default risk and stock returns, standard theory suggests that default risk should be priced in the cross-section. In this paper, we provide an explanation for this apparent puzzle using a new approach. First we calculate monthly physical probabilities of default (PDs) for a large sample of European firms. Second we decompose these estimated PDs into systematic and idiosyncratic components; we measure the systematic part as the sensitivity of the physical PD to an aggregate measure of default risk. While sorting stocks based on physical PDs confirms a possible default anomaly, we find that the relation between the systematic default risk and stock returns is in fact positive. Our results therefore suggest that risker stocks, as measured by the physical PDs, will tend to underperform because they have on average lower exposures to aggregate default risk. Their riskiness is mostly idiosyncratic and can be diversified away.

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File URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/53373/1/MPRA_paper_53373.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 53373.

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Date of creation: 01 Feb 2014
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:53373
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  1. Anginer, Deniz & Yildizhan, Celim, 2010. "Is there a distress risk anomaly ? pricing of systematic default risk in the cross section of equity returns," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5319, The World Bank.
  2. 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.
  3. Ilia D. Dichev, 1998. "Is the Risk of Bankruptcy a Systematic Risk?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(3), pages 1131-1147, 06.
  4. Edward I. Altman, 1968. "Financial Ratios, Discriminant Analysis And The Prediction Of Corporate Bankruptcy," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 23(4), pages 589-609, 09.
  5. George, Thomas J. & Hwang, Chuan-Yang, 2010. "A resolution of the distress risk and leverage puzzles in the cross section of stock returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(1), pages 56-79, April.
  6. Banz, Rolf W., 1981. "The relationship between return and market value of common stocks," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(1), pages 3-18, March.
  7. Nielsen, Caren Yinxia Guo, 2011. "Is Default Risk Priced in Equity Returns?," Working Papers 2011:38, Lund University, Department of Economics.
  8. Chan, K C & Chen, Nai-Fu, 1991. " Structural and Return Characteristics of Small and Large Firms," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 46(4), pages 1467-84, September.
  9. Kapadia, Nishad, 2011. "Tracking down distress risk," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(1), pages 167-182, October.
  10. Sudheer Chava & Amiyatosh Purnanandam, 2010. "Is Default Risk Negatively Related to Stock Returns?," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 23(6), pages 2523-2559, June.
  11. Schaefer, Stephen M. & Strebulaev, Ilya A., 2008. "Structural models of credit risk are useful: Evidence from hedge ratios on corporate bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(1), pages 1-19, October.
  12. Tyler Shumway & Vincent A. Warther, 1999. "The Delisting Bias in CRSP's Nasdaq Data and Its Implications for the Size Effect," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 54(6), pages 2361-2379, December.
  13. Barinov, Alexander, 2012. "Aggregate volatility risk: Explaining the small growth anomaly and the new issues puzzle," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 763-781.
  14. Jose A. Lopez, 2002. "The empirical relationship between average asset correlation, firm probability of default and asset size," Working Paper Series 2002-05, Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.
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