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Rating agencies, self-fulfilling prophecy and multiple equilibria? An empirical model of the European sovereign debt crisis 2009-2011

  • Gärtner, Manfred


  • Griesbach, Björn


We explore whether experiences during Europe's sovereign debt crisis support the notion that governments faced scenarios of self-fulfilling prophecy and multiple equilibria. To this end, we provide estimates of the effect of interest rates and other macroeconomic variables on sovereign debt ratings, and estimates of how ratings bear on interest rates. We detect a nonlinear effect of ratings on interest rates which is strong enough to generate multiple equilibria. The good equilibrium is stable, ratings are excellent and interest rates are low. A second unstable equilibrium marks a threshold beyond which the country falls into an insolvency trap from which it may only escape by exogenous intervention. Coefficient estimates suggest that countries should stay well within the A section of the rating scale in order to remain reasonably safe from being driven into eventual default.

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Paper provided by University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science in its series Economics Working Paper Series with number 1215.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2012:15
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  1. Paul De Grauwe & Yuemei Ji, 2012. "Self-Fulfilling Crises in the Eurozone. An Empirical Test," CESifo Working Paper Series 3821, CESifo Group Munich.
  2. Hallett, Andrew Hughes & Oliva, Juan Carlos Martinez, 2011. "Global Imbalances in a World of Inflexible Real Exchange Rates and Capital Controls," ADBI Working Papers 330, Asian Development Bank Institute.
  3. Boot, Arnoud W A & Milbourn, Todd, 2002. "Credit Ratings as Coordination Mechanism," CEPR Discussion Papers 3331, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  4. Paul De Grauwe, 2011. "A Fragile Eurozone in Search of a Better Governance," CESifo Working Paper Series 3456, CESifo Group Munich.
  5. John Kiff & Sylwia Nowak & Liliana Schumacher, 2012. "Are Rating Agencies Powerful? An Investigation Into the Impact and Accuracy of Sovereign Ratings," IMF Working Papers 12/23, International Monetary Fund.
  6. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 2000. "Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(1), pages 91-116.
  7. Afonso, António & Gomes, Pedro & Rother, Philipp, 2007. "What “hides” behind sovereign debt ratings?," Working Paper Series 0711, European Central Bank.
  8. Graciela Kaminsky & Sergio L. Schmukler, 2002. "Emerging Market Instability: Do Sovereign Ratings Affect Country Risk and Stock Returns?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 16(2), pages 171-195, August.
  9. Calvo, Guillermo A, 1988. "Servicing the Public Debt: The Role of Expectations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 78(4), pages 647-61, September.
  10. Harold L. Cole & Timothy J. Kehoe, 2000. "Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 67(1), pages 91-116.
  11. De Grauwe, Paul & Ji, Yuemei, 2012. "Mispricing of Sovereign Risk and Multiple Equilibria in the Eurozone," CEPS Papers 6548, Centre for European Policy Studies.
  12. Manfred Gärtner & Björn Griesbach & Florian Jung, 2011. "PIGS or Lambs? The European Sovereign Debt Crisis and the Role of Rating Agencies," International Advances in Economic Research, International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 17(3), pages 288-299, August.
  13. Enrica Detragiache, 1996. "Rational Liquidity Crises in the Sovereign Debt Market: In Search of a Theory," IMF Working Papers 96/38, International Monetary Fund.
  14. Rabah Arezki & Bertrand Candelon & Amadou Sy, 2011. "Sovereign Rating News and Financial Markets Spillovers: Evidence from the European Debt Crisis," CESifo Working Paper Series 3411, CESifo Group Munich.
  15. Alberto Alesina & Alessandro Prati & Guido Tabellini, 1989. "Public Confidence and Debt Management: A Model and A Case Study of Italy," NBER Working Papers 3135, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  16. Mark A. Carlson & Galina B. Hale, 2005. "Courage to Capital? A Model of the Effects of Rating Agencies on Sovereign Debt Role-over," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 1506, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  17. Masson, Paul, 1999. "Contagion:: macroeconomic models with multiple equilibria," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 18(4), pages 587-602, August.
  18. De Grauwe, Paul & Ji, Yuemei, 2012. "Self-Fulfilling Crises in the Eurozone: An Empirical Test," CEPS Papers 7085, Centre for European Policy Studies.
  19. Paul De Grauwe & Yuemei Ji, 2012. "Self-Fulfilling Crises in the Eurozone. An Empirical Test," CAMA Working Papers 2012-37, Centre for Applied Macroeconomic Analysis, Crawford School of Public Policy, The Australian National University.
  20. Paul Krugman, 1996. "Are Currency Crises Self-Fulfilling?," NBER Chapters, in: NBER Macroeconomics Annual 1996, Volume 11, pages 345-407 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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