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In Search of Distress Risk

John Y. Campbell

Harvard University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Jens Hilscher

University of California, Davis

Jan Szilagyi

Duquesne Capital Management LLC

July 2006

NBER Working Paper No. w12362

This paper explores the determinants of corporate failure and the pricing of financially distressed stocks using US data over the period 1963 to 2003. Firms with higher leverage, lower profitability, lower market capitalization, lower past stock returns, more volatile past stock returns, lower cash holdings, higher market-book ratios, and lower prices per share are more likely to file for bankruptcy, be delisted, or receive a D rating. When predicting failure at longer horizons, the most persistentfirm characteristics, market capitalization, the market-book ratio, and equity volatility become relatively more significant. Our model captures much of the time variation in the aggregate failure rate. Since 1981, financially distressed stocks have delivered anomalously low returns. They have lower returns but much higher standard deviations, market betas, and loadings on value and small-cap risk factors than stocks with a low risk of failure. These patterns hold in all size quintiles but are particularly strong in smaller stocks. They are inconsistent with the conjecture that the value and size effects are compensation for the risk of financial distress.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 54

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Date posted: July 20, 2006  

Suggested Citation

Campbell, John Y. and Hilscher, Jens and Szilagyi, Jan, In Search of Distress Risk (July 2006). NBER Working Paper No. w12362. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=917567

Contact Information

John Y. Campbell (Contact Author)
Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )
Littauer Center
Room 213
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-6448 (Phone)
617-495-7730 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://scholar.harvard.edu/campbell
National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
Jens Hilscher
University of California, Davis ( email )
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States
Jan Szilagyi
Duquesne Capital Management LLC ( email )
40 West 57th Street, 25th Floor
New York, NY 10024
United States
Feedback to SSRN

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