Uncertainty Shocks and Non-Fundamental Debt Crises: An Ambiguity Approach

53 Pages Posted: 5 May 2015 Last revised: 20 Aug 2015

Date Written: May 5, 2015


This paper develops a theory of sovereign debt crises driven by uncertainty shocks that are modeled as changes in investors' confidence in the macroeconomic fundamental of the economy. Due to defaultable government debt, uncertainty feeds into investors' beliefs about the fiscal sustainability of public debt. The inherent indeterminacy is resolved using maxmin preferences in view of ambiguity averse investors. An uncertainty shock raises the price of issuing debt which in turn affects the optimal tax and borrowing decision of the government. Within a critical zone of indebtedness, uncertainty shocks may lead to non-fundamental default events which share important features and partly endogenize sun-spot driven self-fulfilling crises. The quantitative effects of the mechanism are explored using an estimated business cycle model where a bank-sovereign nexus propagates uncertainty shocks to the macro economy. Forecasters' disagreement is used to identify the non-fundamental share of sovereign yields. The model attributes a sizeable share of sovereign yields to time-variation in uncertainty. Other model predictions are shown to be consistent with impulse responses obtained from a VAR analysis for a panel of Euro area countries.

Keywords: Uncertainty shocks, Self-fulfilling crises, Multiple-priors utility, Ambiguity aversion, Interbank market

JEL Classification: D81, E32, E44, F34

Suggested Citation

Grosse Steffen, Christoph, Uncertainty Shocks and Non-Fundamental Debt Crises: An Ambiguity Approach (May 5, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2602716 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2602716

Christoph Grosse Steffen (Contact Author)

Banque de France ( email )


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