Article | Review of Financial Studies | June 2013

Issuer Quality and Corporate Bond Returns

by Robin Greenwood and Samuel G. Hanson

Abstract

We show that the credit quality of corporate debt issuers deteriorates during credit booms, and that this deterioration forecasts low excess returns to corporate bondholders. The key insight is that changes in the pricing of credit risk disproportionately affect the financing costs faced by low quality firms, so the debt issuance of low quality firms is particularly useful for forecasting bond returns. We show that a significant decline in issuer quality is a more reliable signal of credit market overheating than rapid aggregate credit growth. We use these findings to investigate the forces driving time-variation in expected corporate bond returns.

Keywords: Quality; Bonds; Forecasting and Prediction; Credit;

Citation:

Greenwood, Robin, and Samuel G. Hanson. "Issuer Quality and Corporate Bond Returns." Review of Financial Studies 26, no. 6 (June 2013): 1483–1525. (Internet Appendix Here.)