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Speculation and Risk Sharing with New Financial Assets

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  • Alp Simsek

    (Harvard University)

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    Abstract

    While the traditional view of financial innovation emphasizes the risk sharing role of new financial assets, belief disagreements about these assets naturally lead to speculation, which represents a powerful economic force in the opposite direction. This paper investigates the effect of financial innovation on portfolio risks in an economy when both the risk sharing and the speculation forces are present. I consider this question in a standard mean-variance framework. Financial assets provide hedging services but they are also subject to speculation because traders do not necessarily agree about their payoffs. I define the average variance of traders' net worths as a measure of portfolio risks for this economy, and I decompose it into two components: the uninsurable variance, defined as the average variance that would obtain if there were no belief disagreements, and the speculative variance, defined as the residual variance that results from speculative trades based on belief disagreements. Financial innovation always decreases the uninsurable variance because new assets increase the possibilities for risk sharing. My main result shows that financial innovation also always increases the speculative variance. This is true even if traders completely agree about the payoffs of new assets. The intuition behind this result is the hedge-more/bet-more effect: Traders use new assets to hedge their bets on existing assets, which in turn enables them to place larger bets and take on greater risks. The net effect of financial innovation on portfolio risks depends on the quantitative strength of its effects on the uninsurable and the speculative variances. I consider a calibration of the model for new assets linked to national incomes of G7 countries, which were recommended by Athanasoulis and Shiller (2001) to facilitate risk sharing. For reasonable levels of belief disagreements, these assets would actually increase the average consumption risks of individuals in G7 countries. In addition, a profit seeking market maker would introduce a different subset of these assets than the ones proposed by Athanasoulis and Shiller (2001). The endogenous set of new assets would be directed towards increasing the opportunities for speculation rather than risk sharing.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Society for Economic Dynamics in its series 2012 Meeting Papers with number 71.

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    Date of creation: 2012
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    Handle: RePEc:red:sed012:71

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    1. Varian, Hal R, 1985. " Divergence of Opinion in Complete Markets: A Note," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(1), pages 309-17, March.
    2. Nicola Gennaioli & Andrei Shleifer & Robert Vishny, 2010. "Neglected risks, financial innovation and financial fragility," Economics Working Papers 1251, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, revised Sep 2010.
    3. Karl Schmedders & Felix Kubler, 2012. "Life-Cycle Portfolio Choice, the Wealth Distribution and Asset Prices," 2012 Meeting Papers 536, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    4. Duffie Darrell & Rahi Rohit, 1995. "Financial Market Innovation and Security Design: An Introduction," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 65(1), pages 1-42, February.
    5. Snehal Banerjee, 2011. "Learning from Prices and the Dispersion in Beliefs," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 24(9), pages 3025-3068.
    6. Florian Wagener & Cars Hommes & William Brock, 2006. "More hedging instruments may destabilize markets," Working Papers wp06-11, Warwick Business School, Finance Group.
    7. Stein, Jeremy C., 1987. "Informational Externalities and Welfare-Reducing Speculation," Scholarly Articles 3660740, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    8. Dieckmann, Stephan, 2011. "Rare Event Risk and Heterogeneous Beliefs: The Case of Incomplete Markets," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(02), pages 459-488, April.
    9. Summers, L.H. & Summers, V.P., 1989. "When Financial Markets Work Too Well : A Cautious Case For A Securities Transactions Tax," Papers t12, Columbia - Center for Futures Markets.
    10. Stiglitz, J.E., 1989. "Using Tax Policy To Curb Speculative Short-Term Trading," Papers t2, Columbia - Center for Futures Markets.
    11. John Y. Campbell, 2000. "Asset Pricing at the Millennium," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(4), pages 1515-1567, 08.
    12. Miller, Merton H., 1986. "Financial Innovation: The Last Twenty Years and the Next," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 21(04), pages 459-471, December.
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