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In Rememberance: World Trade Center (WTC)

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In Search of Distress Risk

by John Y. Campbell of Harvard University,
Jens Hilscher of Brandeis University, and
Jan Szilagyi of Duquesne Capital Management, LLC

December 2008

Abstract: This paper explores the determinants of corporate failure and the pricing of financially distressed stocks whose failure probability, estimated from a dynamic logit model using accounting and market variables, is high. Since 1981, financially distressed stocks have delivered anomalously low returns. They have lower returns but much higher standard deviations, market betas, and loadings on value and small-cap risk factors than stocks with low failure risk. These patterns are more pronounced for stocks with possible informational or arbitrage-related frictions. They are inconsistent with the conjecture that the value and size effects are compensation for the risk of financial distress.

JEL Classification: G12, G33.

Keywords: distress risk, default probabilities, bankruptcy and failure prediction, pricing of financially distressed stocks.

Published in: Journal of Finance, Vol. 63, No. 6, (December 2008), pp. 2899-2938.

Download paper (261K PDF) 41 pages