Working Paper 722

The Pass-Through of Sovereign Risk

Luigi Bocola | Research Economist

Published April 16, 2015

This paper examines the macroeconomic implications of sovereign credit risk in a business cycle model where banks are exposed to domestic government debt. The news of a future sovereign default hampers financial intermediation. First, it tightens the funding constraints of banks, reducing their available resources to finance firms (liquidity channel). Second, it generates a precautionary motive for banks to deleverage (risk channel). I estimate the model using Italian data, finding that i) sovereign credit risk was recessionary and that ii) the risk channel was sizable. I then use the model to evaluate the effects of subsidized long term loans to banks, calibrated to the ECB’s longer-term refinancing operations. The presence of strong precautionary motives at the time of policy enactment implies that bank lending to firms is not very sensitive to these credit market interventions.

Published In: Journal of Political Economy (Vol. 124, No. 4, 2016, pp. 879-926)

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