Credit Ratings and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns

37 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2008 Last revised: 8 Feb 2009

See all articles by Doron Avramov

Doron Avramov

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah

Tarun Chordia

Emory University - Department of Finance

Gergana Jostova

George Washington University - Department of Finance

Alexander Philipov

George Mason University - Department of Finance

Date Written: February 7, 2009

Abstract

Low credit risk firms realize higher returns than high credit risk firms. This effect is puzzling because investors seem to pay a premium for bearing credit risk. This paper shows that the credit risk effect manifests itself due to the poor performance of low-rated stocks during periods of financial distress at least three months before and after credit rating downgrades. Around downgrades, low-rated firms experience considerable negative returns amid strong institutional selling, whereas returns do not differ across credit risk groups in stable or improving credit conditions. Remarkably, the group of low-rated stocks driving the credit risk effect accounts for about 4.2% of the total market capitalization. Isolating the credit risk effect to a limited number of firms in a specific set of circumstance allows us to distinguish between its potential explanations. Our evidence points away from risk-based explanations, and towards mispricing generated by retail investors and sustained by illiquidity and short sell constraints.

Keywords: credit risk effect, credit rating, asset-pricing anomalies

JEL Classification: G14, G12, G11

Suggested Citation

Avramov, Doron and Chordia, Tarun and Jostova, Gergana and Philipov, Alexander, Credit Ratings and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns (February 7, 2009). EFA 2008 Athens Meetings Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=940809 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.940809

Doron Avramov

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

Tarun Chordia

Emory University - Department of Finance ( email )

Atlanta, GA 30322-2710
United States
404-727-1620 (Phone)
404-727-5238 (Fax)

Gergana Jostova (Contact Author)

George Washington University - Department of Finance ( email )

2201 G St NW
Funger Hall, Suite 501
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-7478 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://home.gwu.edu/~jostova

Alexander Philipov

George Mason University - Department of Finance ( email )

Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

HOME PAGE: http://mason.gmu.edu/~aphilipo

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