OECD Development Centre Working Papers

The OECD Development Centre links OECD members with developing and emerging economies and fosters debate and discussion to seek creative policy solutions to emerging global issues and development challenges. This series of working papers is intended to disseminate the OECD Development Centre’s research findings rapidly among specialists in the field concerned. These papers are generally available in the original English or French, with a summary in the other language.

English, French

Who Saw Sovereign Debt Crises Coming?

This paper studies sovereign debt crises during the period 1993-2006 through the prism of the primary sovereign bond market. Two conclusions emerge. First, investment banks price sovereign default risk well before crises occur and before investors detect default risk. Between three and one years prior to the onset of a crisis, sovereign default risk countries paid to investment banks on average 1.10 per cent of the amount issued, close to double the average paid by emerging countries overall in the same period (0.56 per cent). In contrast, the level of sovereign bond spreads prior to crises is on average only slightly higher than for emerging countries (385 vs. 319 basis points), suggesting that investment banks have an information advantage with respect to investors and are the only parties compensated for the risk of sovereign debt crises. Second, investment banks’ behaviour differs depending on the type of sovereign debt crisis. Before crises, investment banks charged on average a higher underwriting fee to countries presenting public finances difficulties than to other sovereign debt crisis countries. The robustness of these results is verified through panel data analysis. The results are puzzling in that they indicate that valuable, publicly available information is not tracked by investors to help improve allocation of their emerging market fixed income assets.


Keywords: underwriter spread, primary bond market, information, sovereign debt crises
JEL: G14: Financial Economics / General Financial Markets / Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading; G24: Financial Economics / Financial Institutions and Services / Investment Banking; Venture Capital; Brokerage; Ratings and Ratings Agencies; G15: Financial Economics / General Financial Markets / International Financial Markets; F34: International Economics / International Finance / International Lending and Debt Problems; G11: Financial Economics / General Financial Markets / Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
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