We investigate the role of "country risk" in determining the default risk of firms in emerging markets. In particular, we study the relationship between the secondary market spreads (over hard-currency government bond yields) of bonds issued by emerging market firms and bonds issued by their home governments over the past 3 1/2 years. Our results indicate that market participants do not strictly apply the "sovereign ceiling," under which no firm is more creditworthy than its government. We do find that the spreads of emerging market corporate and government bonds over hard-currency government bonds are highly correlated. The correlation is higher for some industries than for others, and we find no evidence that banks face greater country risk.
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Last update: July 19, 2001