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Mr. Francisco Roch and Francisco Roldán
We analyze how concerns for model misspecification on the part of international lenders affect the desirability of issuing state-contingent debt instruments in a standard sovereign default model à la Eaton and Gersovitz (1981). We show that for the commonly used threshold state-contingent bond structure (e.g., the GDP-linked bond issued by Argentina in 2005), the model with robustness generates ambiguity premia in bond spreads that can explain most of what the literature has labeled as novelty premium. While the government would be better off with this bond when facing rational expectations lenders, this additional source of premia leads to welfare losses when facing robust lenders. Finally, we characterize the optimal design of the state-contingent bond and show how it varies with the level of robustness. Our findings rationalize the little use of these instruments in practice and shed light on their optimal design.
Mr. Francisco Roch
We consider how fear of model misspecification on the part of the planner and/or the households affects welfare gains from optimal macroprudential taxes in an economy with occasionally binding collateral constraints as in Bianchi (2011). On the one hand, there exist welfare gains from internalizing how borrowing decisions in good times affect the value of collateral during a crisis. On the other hand, interventions by a robust planner that has in mind a model far from the true underlying distribution of shocks, can result in negligible welfare gains, or even losses. This is because a policy that is robust to misspecification, as in Hansen and Sargent (2011), is optimal under a "worst-case'' scenario but not under alternative distributions of the state. A robust planner introduces taxes that are 5 percentage points higher but does not achieve a significant increase in welfare gains compared to a non-robust planner when the true underlying model is not the worst-case. If households also make choices that are robust to model misspecification, the gains are significantly reduced and a highly-robust planner "underborrows" and induces welfare losses. If, however, the worst-case scenario is indeed realized, then welfare gains are the largest possible.
Luiza Antoun de Almeida and Mr. Thierry Tressel
This paper studies the evolution of non-financial corporate debt among publicly listed companies in major advanced economies between 2010 and 2017. Since 2010, firms have started to rely more on corporate bond markets and have used part of their debt to increase their holdings of cash. In our sample of some 5,000 firms, we find substantial differences across countries, industries, firms, and years in leverage and debt maturity, and we also identify time factors that are common drivers of capital structures. Within countries, loosening an index of financial conditions seems to be associated with lengthening debt maturity after controlling for firms’ characteristics. Across firms and countries, leveraging and lengthening debt maturity have been greater where economic growth was stronger. Tighter financial conditions are positively associated with an increase in short-term debt financing. Quantile regressions suggest that there is substantial heterogeneity among firms on how they react to macro-financial conditions: large increases in long-term debt financing and large declines in short-term debt financing tend to be driven more by better macroeconomic performance, while large increases in short-term debt financing are more strongly impacted by tighter financial conditions. Since the paper uses data up to 2017, it does not reflect developments that occurred during the coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, sensitivity analysis shows that a significant amount of corporate debt, representing more than 5 percent of GDP, could be at risk in some countries, with an adverse spillover to the financial system if financial conditions tighten or economic growth slows down. This suggests that vulnerabilities should be closely monitored and policy action taken if warranted.