From default probabilities to credit spreads: Credit risk models do explain market prices

Stefan M. Denzler, Michel M. Dacorogna*, Ulrich A. Müller, Alexander J. McNeil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Credit risk models like Moody's KMV are now well established in the market and give bond managers reliable estimates of default probabilities for individual firms. Until now it has been hard to relate those probabilities to the actual credit spreads observed on the market for corporate bonds. Inspired by the existence of scaling laws in financial markets by Dacorogna et al. [2001. An Introduction to High Frequency Finance. Academic Press, San Diego, CA] and Di Matteo et al. [2005. Journal of Banking and Finance 29, 827-851] deviating from the Gaussian behavior, we develop a model that quantitatively links those default probabilities to credit spreads (market prices). The main input quantities to this study are merely industry yield data of different times to maturity and expected default frequencies (EDFs) of Moody's KMV. The empirical results of this paper clearly indicate that the model can be used to calculate approximate credit spreads (market prices) from EDFs, independent of the time to maturity and the industry sector under consideration. Moreover, the model is effective in an out-of-sample setting, it produces consistent results on the European bond market where data are scarce and can be adequately used to approximate credit spreads on the corporate level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-95
Number of pages17
JournalFinance Research Letters
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2006


  • Actual default probability and risk-neutral default probability
  • Bond pricing
  • Credit risk modeling
  • Credit spread
  • Default risk
  • Expected default frequency

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