December 2007

Sovereign CDS and Bond Pricing Dynamics in Emerging Markets: Does the Cheapest-to-Deliver Option Matter?

John Ammer and Fang Cai


We examine the relationships between credit default swap (CDS) premiums and bond yield spreads for nine emerging market sovereign borrowers. We find that these two measures of credit risk deviate considerably in the short run, due to factors such as liquidity and contract specifications, but we estimate a stable long-term equilibrium relationship for most countries. In particular, CDS premiums tend to move more than one-for-one with yield spreads, which we show is broadly consistent with the presence of a significant "cheapest-to-deliver" (CTD) option. In addition, we find a variety of cross-sectional evidence of a CTD option being incorporated into CDS premiums. In our analysis of the short-term dynamics, we find that CDS premiums often move ahead of the bond market. However, we also find that bond spreads lead CDS premiums for emerging market sovereigns more often than has been found for investment-grade corporate credits, consistent with the CTD option impeding CDS liquidity for our riskier set of borrowers. Furthermore, the CDS market is less likely to lead for sovereigns that have issued more bonds, suggesting that the relative liquidity of the two markets is a key determinant of where price discovery occurs.

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Keywords: Credit derivatives, sovereign bonds, yield spreads, emerging markets, liquidity, options

PDF: Full Paper

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