Assistant Professor, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Faculty Research Fellow, NBER




Journal of Finance, February 2017, 72:1
Buyout booms form in response to declines in the aggregate risk premium. We document that the equity risk premium is the primary determinant of buyout activity rather than credit-specific conditions. We articulate a simple explanation for this phenomenon: a low risk premium increases the present value of performance gains and decreases the cost of holding an illiquid investment. A panel of U.S. buyouts confirms this view. The risk premium shapes changes in buyout characteristics over the cycle, including their riskiness, leverage, and performance. Our results underscore the importance of the risk premium in corporate finance decisions.

Forthcoming, Journal of Political Economy

Information aversion, a preference-based fear of news flows, has rich implications for decisions involving information and risk-taking. It can explain key empirical patterns on how households pay attention to savings, namely that investors observe their portfolios infrequently, particularly when stock prices are low or volatile. Receiving state-dependent alerts following sharp market downturns such as during the financial crisis of 2008 improves welfare. Information averse investors display an ostrich behavior: overhearing negative news prompts more inattention. Their fear of frequent news encourages them to hold undiversified portfolios.

Forthcoming, Journal of Finance

Banks' balance-sheet exposure to fluctuations in interest rates strongly forecasts excess Treasury bond returns. This result is consistent with optimal risk management, a banking counterpart to the household Euler equation. In equilibrium, the bond risk premium compensates banks for bearing fluctuations in interest rates. When banks' exposure to interest rate risk increases, the price of this risk simultaneously rises. We present a collection of empirical observations supporting this view, but also discuss several challenges to this interpretation.

Forthcoming, Review of Financial Studies

The optimal factor timing portfolio is equivalent to the stochastic discount factor. We propose and implement a method to characterize both empirically. Our approach imposes restrictions on the dynamics of expected returns which lead to an economically plausible SDF. Market-neutral equity factors are strongly and robustly predictable. Exploiting this predictability leads to substantial improvement in portfolio performance relative to static factor investing. The variance of the corresponding SDF is larger, more variable over time, and exhibits different cyclical behavior than estimates ignoring this fact. These results pose new challenges for theories that aim to match the cross-section of stock returns.

Revise and Resubmit, Review of Financial Studies
Latest version: 11/19 | NBER Summary

We construct a new dataset tracking the daily value of life insurers' assets at the security level. Outside of the 2008-09 crisis, a $1 drop in the market value of assets reduces an insurer's market equity by $0.10. During the financial crisis, this pass-through rises to 1. We propose a theory of financial intermediaries as asset insulators to account for this pattern. The theory also rationalizes insurers' portfolio choices and liability structure. Finally, we document that insurers' market equity declined by $50 billion less than the duration-adjusted value of their securities during the crisis, illustrating the macroeconomic importance of insulation.

Revise and Resubmit, Review of Economic Studies
Investors can choose to hold diversified or levered, concentrated portfolios of risky assets. This paper studies the dynamics of asset prices in an economy in which both investment styles coexist in equilibrium even though all agents are ex-ante identical. I capture the tradeoff between risk sharing and productivity gains by introducing what I call “active capital.” People who participate in such investments are restricted in their outside opportunities but receive extra compensation for the productivity gains they bring to the corresponding enterprises. I show that fluctuations in the quantity of active capital increase the volatility of asset prices relative to a standard economy. Not all shocks shift the distribution of ownership: risk considerations determine the willingness to provide active capital, whereas current and expected future economic activity do not play a role. Therefore, active capital fluctuates jointly with risk premia, amplifying their variations. As a consequence, the price of volatility risk exposure can be large, and return volatility is mainly induced by fluctuations in future expected returns. These results are particularly strong when fundamental volatility is low, because at such times, a large number of concentrated owners are likely to exit their positions and sell off their assets. 

We discover a novel monetary policy shock that has a widespread impact on aggregate financial conditions and market confidence. Our shock can be summarized by the response of long-horizon yields to FOMC announcements; not only is it orthogonal to changes in the near-term path of policy rates, but it also explains more than half of the abnormal variation in the yield curve on announcement days. We find that our shock is positively related to changes in real interest rates and market volatility, and negatively related to market returns and mortgage issuance, consistent with policy announcements affecting market confidence. Our results demonstrate that Federal Reserve pronouncements influence markets independent of changes in the stance of conventional monetary policy.

(with Tyler Muir)
Existing studies find that intermediary balance sheets are strongly correlated with asset returns, but it is still unclear whether or how much fluctuations in intermediaries’ health matter for aggregate asset prices rather than simply being correlated with aggregate risk aversion. In this paper we propose a model that incorporates both the possibility that intermediaries matter for asset prices as well as the possibility of a frictionless world in which their balance sheets are just correlated to asset returns. We devise a simple test that helps separate the frictionless view of intermediaries and asset prices from the view that they matter. Specifically, a sufficient condition for intermediaries to matter for asset prices is to document a larger elasticity of the risk premia of intermediated assets to changes in intermediary risk appetite. That is, intermediary health should matter relatively more for assets that households are less willing to hold directly. We provide direct empirical evidence that this is the case and hence argue that intermediaries matter for a number of key asset classes including CDS, commodities, sovereign bonds, and FX. Our findings suggest that a large fraction of risk premia in these asset classes is related to intermediary risk appetite.

Episodes of booming firm creation often coincide with intense speculation on financial markets. Disagreement among investors transforms the economics of optimal firm creation. We characterize the interaction between speculation and classic entry externalities from growth theory through a general entry tax formula for a non-paternalistic planner. The business-stealing effect is mitigated when investors believe they can identify the best firms. Speculation thus increases firm entry but reduces the optimal tax, potentially resulting in under-entry. The appropriability effect also vanishes, leaving only general equilibrium effects on input prices, aggregate demand, or knowledge. As a result, speculation reverses the role of many industry characteristics for efficiency. For instance, as the labor share increases, the optimal tax decreases under agreement but increases under disagreement. Further, economies with identical aggregate properties but a different market structure have the same efficiency with agreement, but call for different policies once financial market speculation is taken into account.

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