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Is there a Distress Risk Anomaly? Pricing of Systematic Default Risk in the Cross Section of Equity Returns

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  • Anginer, Deniz
  • Yildizhan, Celim

Abstract

The standard measures of distress risk ignore the fact that firm defaults are correlated and that some defaults are more likely to occur in bad times. We use risk premium computed from corporate credit spreads to measure a firm’s exposure to systematic variation in default risk. Unlike previously used measures that proxy for a firm’s physical probability of default, credit spreads proxy for a risk-adjusted default probability and thereby explicitly account for the non-diversifiable component of distress risk. In contrast to prior findings in the literature, we find that stocks that have higher credit risk premia, that is stocks with higher systematic default risk exposures, have higher expected equity returns which are largely explained by the market factor. We confirm the robustness of these results by using an alternative systematic default risk factor for firms that do not have bonds outstanding. Consistent with the theoretical result in George and Hwang (2010), we also show that firms react to increases in their systematic default risk exposures by reducing their leverage, leading to lower physical probabilities of distress. Our results show no evidence of firms with high systematic default risk exposure delivering anomalously low returns.

Suggested Citation

  • Anginer, Deniz & Yildizhan, Celim, 2009. "Is there a Distress Risk Anomaly? Pricing of Systematic Default Risk in the Cross Section of Equity Returns," MPRA Paper 53885, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 23 Apr 2013.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:53885
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    Cited by:

    1. Jens Hilscher & Mungo Wilson, 2011. "Credit ratings and credit risk," Working Papers 31, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
    2. Ali K. Ozdagli, 2010. "The distress premium puzzle," Working Papers 10-13, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    3. Anginer, Deniz & Warburton, A. Joseph, 2010. "The Chrysler effect : the impact of the Chrysler bailout on borrowing costs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5462, The World Bank.
    4. Charles W. Calomiris & Inessa Love & Maria Soledad Martinez Peria, 2010. "Crisis "Shock Factors" and the Cross-Section of Global Equity Returns," NBER Working Papers 16559, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Ferreira Filipe, Sara & Grammatikos, Theoharry & Michala, Dimitra, 2014. "Pricing Default Risk: The Good, The Bad, and The Anomaly," MPRA Paper 53373, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Default risk; systematic default risk; credit risk; distress risk; bankruptcy; credit spread; asset-pricing anomalies; pricing of default risk; corporate bonds;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G13 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Contingent Pricing; Futures Pricing
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation

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