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Credit Spreads, Optimal Capital Structure, and Implied Volatility with Endogenous Default and Jump Risk

by Nan Chen of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and
Steven G. Kou of Columbia University

July 2009

Abstract: We propose a two-sided jump model for credit risk by extending the Leland-Toft endogenous default model based on the geometric Brownian motion. The model shows that jump risk and endogenous default can have significant impacts on credit spreads, optimal capital structure, and implied volatility of equity options: (1) Jumps and endogenous default can produce a variety of non-zero credit spreads, including upward, humped, and downward shapes; interesting enough, the model can even produce, consistent with empirical findings, upward credit spreads for speculative grade bonds. (2) The jump risk leads to much lower optimal debt/equity ratio; in fact, with jump risk, highly risky firms tend to have very little debt. (3) The two-sided jumps lead to a variety of shapes for the implied volatility of equity options, even for long maturity options; although in general credit spreads and implied volatility tend to move in the same direction under exogenous default models, this may not be true in presence of endogenous default and jumps. Pricing formulae of credit default swaps and equity default swaps are also given. In terms of mathematical contribution, we give a proof of a version of the "smooth fitting" principle under the jump model, justifying a conjecture first suggested by Leland and Toft under the Brownian model.

Keywords: credit risk, yield spreads, capital structure, implied volatility, jump diffusion, smooth pasting.

Published in: Mathematical Finance, Vol. 19, No. 3, (July 2009), pp. 343-378.

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