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Working Papers, No. 2002-23, 2002
Inter-industry contagion and the competitive effects of financial distress announcements: evidence from commercial banks and life insurance companies

In this paper, we investigate the “inter-industry” contagion effects of financial distress announcements by commercial banks on the stock returns of life insurance companies, and viceversa. We focus on inter-industry contagion effects because the vast majority of the extant literature about contagion has neglected this important potential cost to shareholders. We examine adverse information about commercial real estate portfolios from three separate sets of announcements.


Our results provide very strong evidence of significant inter-industry shareholder wealth effects. However, these shareholder wealth effects do not appear to be purely contagious in nature. The wealth effects are directly linked to such factors as: geographic proximity, asset portfolio composition, liability portfolio composition, and regulatory expectations. Thus, it appears that the market considers both expected changes in the revenue produced by assets as well as the cost of liabilities when determining the magnitude of shareholder wealth effects. This helps to explain why in some instances competitors benefit from a rival firm’s financial distress announcement. And, that this positive competitive benefit may outweigh any negative reevaluation effects of the announcement. Unlike previous contagion studies, we also attempt to evaluate the proportion of the contagion effect that is informational relative to that proportion which is pure contagion.

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