Scandinavian Working Papers in Economics

Working Papers,
Lund University, Department of Economics

No 2019:15: Internet Searches, Household Sentiment and Credit Spreads

Hans Byström ()
Additional contact information
Hans Byström: Department of Economics, Lund University, Postal: Department of Economics, School of Economics and Management, Lund University, Box 7082, S-220 07 Lund, Sweden

Abstract: We use Google internet search volumes to measure households’ pessimism about overall market-wide credit health in the economy, and show that this “household default sentiment” is positively correlated with the credit default swap (CDS) spread level in the market. However, while household default sentiment might drive the cost of credit to some degree, either directly or indirectly through its effect on the stock market, we find the stock market’s opinion about the credit risk in the economy (default probabilities backed out from structural models) to be much more important in explaining credit spreads. The rather weak link between household sentiment and CDS spreads, meanwhile, is consistent with the almost complete absence of retail investors (households) in the institutional investor-dominated credit derivatives market. The results are essentially the same, whether we look at market-wide CDS indexes or single-name CDS contracts, and whether we exclude the financial crisis or not.

Keywords: sentiment; Google; internet search; households; CDS; spread; distance to default

JEL-codes: C82; D83; G12; G14; G50

26 pages, October 31, 2019

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