Conference Paper

Financial innovation and corporate default rates

Abstract: Corporate default rates have been unusually low in recent years, both relative to historical rates and to forecasts of economists and ratings agencies. We examine the hypothesis that financial innovation has provided new financing options for distressed firms, which are consequently able to postpone or avoid default. Consistent with this hypothesis, we find that in recent years the incidence of early default has decreased, even after controlling for business cycle effects. Next, we estimate a model for predicting aggregate monthly defaults and find that, if financial innovation is ignored, there is evidence of a structural break in recent years. Focusing on the most recent sample, we find that increased structured financing (i.e., high-yield CLO and CDO issuances) predict increased distance to default. Moreover, the component of distance to default explained by financing is positively related to future defaults, whereas the residual unexplained part is negatively related to future defaults. In contrast, increased traditional financing (i.e., banks? commercial and industrial lending and commercial paper issuance) is negatively related to the distance to default. These results are consistent with more stringent monitoring of borrowers by traditional lenders. However, incorporation of both structured and traditional financing improves the default prediction model, especially in the recent sample. Our findings highlight the important role of financing in credit risk modeling and management.

Status: Published in “Day ahead" conference on financial markets (2009 : January 2)

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Bibliographic Information

Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco

Part of Series: Proceedings

Publication Date: 2009

Issue: Jan