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Contagion of Financial Crises in Sovereign Debt Markets

Lizarazo, Sandra (2009): Contagion of Financial Crises in Sovereign Debt Markets.

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Abstract

This paper develops a quantitative model of contagion of financial crisis and sovereign default for small open economies that cannot credibly commit to honor their international debts and have common international risk averse investors. The existence of common investors with preferences that exhibit decreasing absolute risk aversion (DARA) generates financial links between the emerging economies sovereign debt markets that help to explain the endogenous determination of credit limits, capital flows, and the risk premium in sovereign bond prices as function not only of the economy's fundamentals, the investors' characteristics (wealth, and degree of risk aversion) but more importantly of the fundamentals of other emerging economies. Therefore this paper provides a theoretical formalization that is the base for and endogenous explanation of the contagion of financial crises. The model shows that whenever a country suffers a domestic shock that forces it to default in its debts, this domestic shock will affect the investor's wealth and therefore her tolerance of risk, producing a contagion of the crisis in those countries whose fundamentals are not solid enough. Also, even when the crisis in a country does not force such country to default, the domestic shock affects the overall riskiness of the investor's portfolio, forcing her to rebalance it. In this case the investor moves away from countries that are ``too'' risky towards countries that are relatively solid, exhibiting a behavior consistent with the observed phenomena denominated as ``flight to quality''. Quantitatively, the application of the model to the case of the Argentinean default of $2001$ and the posterior contagion of the crisis to the neighboring country Uruguay shows that the model with financial links is not only consistent with the business cycle behavior of emerging economies considered but it is also superior to models that do not contemplate such links in the following dimensions: i.) the model explains a larger proportion and volatility of the spread between sovereign bonds and riskless assets; ii.) the model explains endogenously the positive correlation between the economies' sovereign bonds spreads, debt flows and consumptions, and iii.) the model exhibits the behavior observed in the data of higher volatility and comovement of the series of emerging economies during periods of volatility in financial markets prompted by the crisis in some emerging country.

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