European banks are exposed to a substantial amount of risky sovereign debt. The “missing bank capital” resulting from the zero-risk weight exemption for European banks for European sovereign debt amplifies the co-movement between sovereign CDS spreads and facilitates cross-border financial-crisis spillovers. Risks spill over from risky periphery sovereigns to safer core countries, but not in the opposite direction nor for exposures to countries not exempted from risk-weighting. We consider the trade-off of benefits of sovereign debt (for banks and sovereigns) and spillover risk when applying risk-weights. More bank capital as well as positive risk-weighting for sovereign exposures mitigates spillovers.

Kirschenmann, Karolin, Josef Korte and Sascha Steffen (2017), The Zero Risk Fallacy? Banks' Sovereign Exposure and Sovereign Risk Spillovers, ZEW Discussion Paper No. 17-069, Mannheim. Download


Kirschenmann, Karolin
Korte, Josef
Steffen, Sascha


Sovereign debt, sovereign risk, bank risk, CDS, contagion, zero risk weight, Basel III, CRD, EBA capital exercise