The IMF Working Papers series is designed to make IMF staff research available to a wide audience. Almost 300 Working Papers are released each year, covering a wide range of theoretical and analytical topics, including balance of payments, monetary and fiscal issues, global liquidity, and national and international economic developments.
Probability of default (PD) measures have been widely used in estimating potential losses of, and contagion among, large financial institutions. In a period of financial stress however, the existing methods to compute PDs and generate loss estimates that may vary significantly. This paper discusses three issues that should be taken into account in using PD-based methodologies for loss or contagion analyses: (i) the use of - risk-neutral probabilities - vs. -real-world probabilities; - (ii) the divergence between movements in credit and equity markets during periods of financial stress; and (iii) the assumption of stochastic vs. fixed recovery for financial institutions' assets. All three elements have nontrivial implications for providing an accurate estimate of default probabilities and associated losses as inputs for setting policies related to large banks in distress.