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Why They Keep Missing: An Empirical Investigation of Rational Inattention of Rating Agencies

Sovereign ratings have frequently failed to predict crises. However, the literature has focused on explaining rating levels rather than the timing of rating announcements. We fill this gap by explicitly differentiating between a decision to assess a country and the actual rating decision. Thereby, we account for rational inattention of rating agencies that exists due to costs of reassessment. Exploiting information of rating announcements, we show that (i) the proposed differentiation significantly improves estimation; (ii) rating agencies consider many nonfundamental factors in their reassessment decision; (iii) markets only react to ratings providing new information; (iv) developed countries get preferential treatment.

26. January 2017

Authors Gregor von Schweinitz Makram El-Shagi

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