We introduce longitudinal factor analysis (LFA) to extract the common risk-free (CRF) rate from a sample of sovereign bonds of countries in a monetary union. Since LFA exploits the typically very large longitudinal dimension of bond data, it performs better than traditional factor analysis methods that rely on the much smaller cross-sectional dimension. European sovereign bond yields for the period 2006–2011 are decomposed into a CRF rate, a default risk premium and a liquidity risk premium. Our empirical findings suggest that investors chase both credit quality and liquidity, and that they price double default risk on credit default swaps. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.