Working Paper

Self-Fulfilling Debt Crises, Revisited


Abstract: We revisit self-fulfilling rollover crises by exploring the potential uncertainty introduced by a gap in time (however small) between an auction of new debt and the payment of maturing liabilities. It is well known (Cole and Kehoe, 2000) that the lack of commitment at the time of auction to repayment of imminently maturing debt can generate a run on debt, leading to a failed auction and immediate default. We show that the same lack of commitment leads to a rich set of possible self-fulfilling crises, including a government that issues more debt because of the crisis, albeit at depressed prices. Another possible outcome is a “sudden stop” (or forced austerity) in which the government sharply curtails debt issuance. Both outcomes stem from the government’s incentive to eliminate uncertainty about imminent payments at the time of auction by altering the level of debt issuance. In an otherwise standard quantitative version of the model, including such crises in-creases the default probabilities by a factor of five and the spread volatility by a factor of twenty-five.

Keywords: self-fulfilling debt crises; rollover crises;

JEL Classification: F1; G3;

https://doi.org/10.21799/frbp.wp.2020.03

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Provider: Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

Part of Series: Working Papers

Publication Date: 2020-01-22

Number: 20-03