Measuring default risk premia from default swap rates and EDFs

BIS Working Papers No 173
March 2005
On 9-10 September 2004, the BIS held a workshop on The pricing of credit risk. This event brought together central bankers, academics and market practitioners to exchange views on this issue (see the conference programme in this document). This paper was presented at the workshop. The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not those of the BIS.

This paper estimates recent default risk premia for U.S. corporate debt, based on a close relationship between default probabilities, as estimated by Moody's KMV EDFs, and default swap (CDS) market rates. The default-swap data, obtained through CIBC from 22 banks and specialty dealers, allow us to establish a strong link between actual and risk-neutral default probabilities for the 69 firms in the three sectors that we analyze: broadcasting and entertainment, healthcare, and oil and gas. We find dramatic variation over time in risk premia, from peaks in the third quarter of 2002, dropping by roughly 50% to late 2003.