We study the concept of risk appetite, that is investors' willingness to buy risky assets. Market players and researchers have tried to find a proxy for it, notably by means of spreads in high yielding markets like credit or emerging markets. However, these measures might be biased because they hinge on series of prices that include market movements due to the re-pricing of both systemic and specific risks. Being macro factors that affect all the assets in the universe, risk appetite and risk aversion can only produce systemic risk re-pricing. We apply a methodology to correct this bias. We analysed emerging market debt capital markets and compute a systemic risk only indicator that enables one to ascertain more precisely periods in which risk appetite might have driven market returns. We find that from the end of 1997 to 2004 only about 30 per cent of the return of the EMBI+ might have been due to changes in risk appetite. Copyright 2009 The Author. Journal compilation 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd/University of Adelaide and Flinders University.
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