A Three-Factor Defaultable Term Structure Model

Part of the Springer Finance book series (FINANCE)


In the following, we develop a model for pricing defaultable debt that is capable of reflecting real world phenomena realistically. Before we actually introduce the model, we make some heuristic observations to motivate the theory. Throughout the following sections we examine and extend these considerations further:
  • Since defaults actually happen, a bond pricing model must be able to deal with default events: For example, in August 1999 Ecuador defaulted on interest rate payments of Brady bonds with a total amount of about US$ 6 billions. In October 1999 there was a second default of US$ 500 millions. Figure 6.1 shows the yields to maturity and S&P ratings of an Ecuadorian sovereign bond that was downgraded to the rating D in September 1999.

  • Rating agencies can’t check the ratings on a daily basis or even continuously. Ratings of rating agencies can only be described by discrete time processes. But the quality of an obligor usually changes according to a continuous time process (see, e.g., figure 6.1). Thus, the quality or the distance to default of an obligor should be observed continuously.

  • Very often the quality of obligors shows mean reversion properties. In case of a downgrade the management of a firm usually takes actions to improve the quality again. Figure 6.2 shows this phenomenon for the firm Hertz. The mean reversion level of the rating of Hertz is A- and A3 for S&P’s and Moody’s rating, respectively.

  • Many models for pricing defaultable zero coupon bonds don’t allow for positive short term credit spreads: As time to maturity tends to zero the model credit spreads tend to zero, too. Obviously, these models are far away from describing reality. In figure 6.3 we show observed corporate credit spreads for different maturities. Even bonds with a rating of A and time to maturity of seven days can have credit spreads which are higher than 500 basis points. Hence, a model must be capable of generating high credit spreads even for short term debt.

  • Yields and credit spreads usually depend on the quality of the obligor. The better the quality the smaller the yields (compare to figure 6.4). The time series of the yields show high correlations between the rating classes A and AAA. Gains and losses are — at least to some extend — caused by changes in the quality of the obligor.

  • Credit spread processes often show mean reversion properties. See, e.g., figure 6.5.

  • Non-defaultable interest rates are usually mean reverting. See, e.g., figure 6.6.


Default Risk Credit Spread Bond Price Short Rate Credit Derivative 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.risklab germany GmbHMunichGermany

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