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Why does bad news increase volatility and decrease leverage?

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  • Fostel, Ana
  • Geanakoplos, John

Abstract

A recent literature shows how an increase in volatility reduces leverage. However, in order to explain pro-cyclical leverage it assumes that bad news increases volatility, that is, it assumes an inverse relationship between first and second moments of asset returns. This paper suggests a reason why bad news is more often than not associated with higher future volatility. We show that, in a model with endogenous leverage and heterogeneous beliefs, agents have the incentive to invest mostly in technologies that become more volatile in bad times. Agents choose these technologies because they can be leveraged more during normal times. Together with the existing literature this explains pro-cyclical leverage. The result also gives a rationale to the pattern of volatility smiles observed in stock options since 1987. Finally, the paper presents for the first time a dynamic model in which an asset is endogenously traded simultaneously at different margin requirements in equilibrium.

Suggested Citation

  • Fostel, Ana & Geanakoplos, John, 2012. "Why does bad news increase volatility and decrease leverage?," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(2), pages 501-525.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jetheo:v:147:y:2012:i:2:p:501-525
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jet.2011.07.001
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Collateral; Endogenous leverage; VaR; Volatility; Volatility smile;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D52 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Incomplete Markets
    • D53 - Microeconomics - - General Equilibrium and Disequilibrium - - - Financial Markets
    • E44 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Money and Interest Rates - - - Financial Markets and the Macroeconomy
    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates

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