Municipal Bond Liquidity and Default Risk

  • Author(s): MICHAEL SCHWERT
  • Published: Jun 13, 2017
  • DOI: 10.1111/jofi.12511


This paper examines the pricing of municipal bonds. I use three distinct, complementary approaches to decompose municipal bond spreads into default and liquidity components, and find that default risk accounts for 74% to 84% of the average spread after adjusting for tax‐exempt status. The first approach estimates the liquidity component using transaction data, the second measures the default component with credit default swap data, and the third is a quasi‐natural experiment that estimates changes in default risk around pre‐refunding events. The price of default risk is high given the rare incidence of municipal default and implies a high risk premium.

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