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The Joint Dynamics of Sovereign Ratings and Government Bond Yields

In the present paper, we build a bivariate semiparametric dynamic panel model to repro-duce the joint dynamics of sovereign ratings and government bond yields. While the individual equations resemble Pesaran-type cointegration models, we allow for different long-run relationships in both equations, nonlinearities in the level effect of ratings, and asymmetric effects in changes of ratings and yields. We find that the interest rate equation and the rating equation imply significantly different long-run relationships. While the high persistence in both interest rates and ratings might lead to the misconception that they follow a unit root process, the joint analysis reveals that they converge slowly to a joint equilibrium. While this indicates that there is no vicious cycle driving countries into default, the persistence of ratings is high enough that a rating shock can have substantial costs. Generally, the interest rate adjusts rather quickly to the risk premium that is in line with the rating. For most ratings, this risk premium is only marginal. However, it becomes substantial when ratings are downgraded to highly speculative (a rating of B) or lower. Rating shocks that drive the rating below this threshold can increase the interest rate sharply, and for a long time. Yet, simulation studies based on our estimations show that it is highly improbable that rating agencies can be made responsible for the most dramatic spikes in interest rates.

27. March 2015

Authors Makram El-Shagi Gregor von Schweinitz

Suggested Reading

The Joint Dynamics of Sovereign Ratings and Government Bond Yields

Makram El-Shagi Gregor von Schweinitz

in: Deutsche Bundesbank Discussion Papers , No. 13, 2016

Abstract

Can a negative shock to sovereign ratings invoke a vicious cycle of increasing government bond yields and further downgrades, ultimately pushing a country toward default? The narratives of public and political discussions, as well as of some widely cited papers, suggest this possibility. In this paper, we will investigate the possible existence of such a vicious cycle. We find no evidence of a bad long-run equilibrium and cannot confirm a negative feedback loop leading into default as a transitory state for all but the very worst ratings.

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