Common Factors in Default Risk Across Countries and Industries


  • We are grateful to an anonymous referee, John Doukas (the editor), and seminar participants at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Campus-for-Finance Research Conference in Vallendar, the 2007 Annual Meeting of the European Finance Association in Ljubljana, the 2007 EIASM Workshop on Default Risk and Financial Distress in Rennes and a Virtual Laboratory Research Meeting at Old Mutual Asset Management in London, for helpful comments. Correspondence: Kevin Aretz.


Global economic crises appear to strongly affect corporate bankruptcy rates. However, several prior studies indicate that changes in default risk are strongly negatively related to equity returns, which in turn depend predominately on country-specific factors. This suggests that country effects – and not global effects – should dominate changes in default risk. To analyse this issue, we decompose changes in default risk, changes in the fundamental determinants of default risk and equity returns into global, country and industry effects. We proxy for default risk through Merton (1974) default risk estimates and CDS rates. Our evidence reveals that changes in default risk always depend most strongly on global and industry effects. However, the magnitude of country effects in equity returns correlates positively with economic stability, rendering it dependent on the sample period. Our results have implications for the management of credit-sensitive securities.