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Determinants of the Asset Correlations of German Corporations and Implications for Regulatory Capital

by Klaus Düllmann of Deutsche Bundesbank, and
Harald Scheule of the University of Regensburg

October 2003

Abstract: This empirical paper addresses the gap between the theoretically well-understood impact of systematic risk on the loss-distribution of a credit-risky loan portfolio and the lack of empirical estimates of the default correlation. To this purpose we start with a one-factor model in which the correlation with the systematic risk factor equals the asset correlation between two firms.

The asset correlation is estimated from time series of ten years with default histories of 53280 German companies. The sample is divided into categories that are homogenous with respect to default probability (PD) and firm size. In this way we can explore to what extent correlations depend on these two factors. Several economic explanations why asset correlation depends on size and PD are discussed.

The empirical analysis is motivated as well by current proposals for the internal ratings based approach of the new Basel Accord. They suggest that the asset correlation parameter in the risk-weight function depends on the PD and on the firm size of the borrower. Our empirical results are compared with this proposal.

JEL Classification: G21.

Keywords: asset correlation, New Basel Accord, default correlation, firm size, single risk factor model.

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