Is Default Risk Negatively Related to Stock Returns?
46 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2007 Last revised: 26 Oct 2015
Date Written: July 4, 2009
We find a positive cross-sectional relationship between expected stock returns and default risk, contrary to the negative relationship estimated by prior studies. Whereas prior studies use noisy ex post realized returns to estimate expected returns, we use ex ante estimates based on the implied cost of capital. The results suggest that investors expected higher returns for bearing default risk, but they were negatively surprised by lower-than-expected returns on high default risk stocks in the 1980s. We also extend the sample compared to prior studies, and find that the evidence based on realized returns is considerably weaker in the 1952-1980 period.
Keywords: Default risk, bankruptcy, expected return, realized return, implied cost of capital
JEL Classification: G11, G12, G13, G14, G33, G29
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation