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Banks, government bonds, and default: what do the data say?
Gennaioli, Nicola; Martin, Alberto; Rossi, Stefano
Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Departament d'Economia i Empresa
We use data from Bankscope to analyze the holdings of public bonds by over 18,000 banks located in 185 countries and the role of these bonds in 18 sovereign debt crises over the period 1998-2012. We find that: (i) banks hold a sizeable share of their assets in government bonds (about 9% on average), particularly in less financially developed countries; (ii) during sovereign crises, banks on average increase their bondholdings by 1% of their assets, but this increase is concentrated among larger and more profitable banks, and; (iii) the correlation between a bank's holdings of public bonds and its future loans is positive in normal times, but turns negative during defaults. A 10% increase in bank bond-holdings during default is associated with a 3.2% reduction in future loans, and bonds bought in normal times account for 75% of this effect. Our results are consistent with the view that there is a liquidity benefit for banks to hold public bonds in normal times, which is critical for understanding bank fragility during sovereign crises.
Macroeconomics and International Economics
sovereign risk
sovereign default
government bonds
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