Banks and Sovereign Risk: A Granular View

In this paper, we use detailed data on the sovereign debt holdings of all German banks to analyse the determinants of sovereign debt exposures and the implications of sovereign exposures for bank risk. Our main findings are as follows. First, sovereign bond holdings are heterogeneous across banks. Larger, weakly capitalised banks and banks with a small depositor base hold more sovereign bonds. Around 31% of all German banks hold no sovereign bonds at all. Second, the sensitivity of banks to macroeconomic factors increased significantly in the post-Lehman period. Banks hold more bonds from euro area countries, from low-inflation countries, and from countries with high sovereign bond yields. Third, there has been no marked impact of sovereign bond holdings on bank risk. This result could indicate the widespread absence of marking-to-market for sovereign bond holdings at the onset of the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

30. August 2013

Autoren Claudia M. Buch Michael Koetter Jana Ohls

Empfohlene Publikationen


Banks and Sovereign Risk: A Granular View

Claudia M. Buch Michael Koetter Jana Ohls

in: Journal of Financial Stability, 2016


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.

Publikation lesen


Für Wissenschaftler/innen

Für Journalistinnen/en

Mitglied der Leibniz-Gemeinschaft LogoTotal-Equality-LogoWeltoffen Logo