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Banks and Sovereign Risk: A Granular View

We identify the determinants of all German banks’ sovereign debt exposures between 2005 and 2013 and test for the implications of these exposures for bank risk. Larger, more capital market affine, and less capitalised banks hold more sovereign bonds. Around 15% of all German banks never hold sovereign bonds during the sample period. The sensitivity of sovereign bond holdings by banks to eurozone membership and inflation increased significantly since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. Since the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis, banks prefer sovereigns with lower debt ratios and lower bond yields. Finally, we find that riskiness of government bond holdings affects bank risk only since 2010. This confirms the existence of a nexus between government debt and bank risk.

01. September 2015

Autoren Claudia M. Buch Michael Koetter Jana Ohls

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Banks and Sovereign Risk: A Granular View

Claudia M. Buch Michael Koetter Jana Ohls

in: Journal of Financial Stability , 2016

Abstract

We investigate the determinants of sovereign bond holdings of German banks and the implications of such holdings for bank risk. We use granular information on all German banks and all sovereign debt exposures in the years 2005–2013. As regards the determinants of sovereign bond holdings of banks, we find that these are larger for weakly capitalized banks, banks that are active on capital markets, and for large banks. Yet, only around two thirds of all German banks hold sovereign bonds. Macroeconomic fundamentals were significant drivers of sovereign bond holdings only after the collapse of Lehman Brothers. With the outbreak of the sovereign debt crisis, German banks reallocated their portfolios toward sovereigns with lower debt ratios and bonds with lower yields. With regard to the implications for bank risk, we find that low-risk government bonds decreased the risk of German banks, especially for savings and cooperative banks. Holdings of high-risk government bonds, in turn, increased the risk of commercial banks during the sovereign debt crisis.

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