Government yield spread determinants in the eurozone and the effect of the European debt crisis
Abstract: The inception of the economic and monetary union (EMU) in January 1999 created new conditions for government debt. By eliminating currency exchange rate risk between the member states, the hope was to achieve a more sustainable and integrated government debt market in the euro area. Even though we witnessed relative stability for several years, the financial turmoil starting in 2008 and more so the European government debt crisis starting in late 2009 led to higher and more volatile yield differentials between the member states. This thesis explores the European government bond market to find the fundamental determinants of yield spreads and to see if the impact of these determinants changed since the start of the debt crisis. Financial theory suggests that there are three main fundamental drivers of government bond yields and as such lay the framework for finding the explanatory variables. By using a fixed-effect panel regression model the empirical findings of this study show that credit risk, liquidity risk, risk aversion all play a significant role in explaining yield spreads in the euro area. Furthermore, we find evidence of increasing marginal effects of all explanatory variables except for global risk aversion since the start of the crisis. We also consider the effect of the statement by the ECB President in 2012 where the ECB committed to quantitative easing as an important reason for the decrease in yields and illustrate this by expanding our model. The contribution of this study is centered around the use of longer timeseries data that provides the significant advantage of fully incorporating the European debt crisis which is something that previous studies were lacking.
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