IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Betting against beta (and gamma) using government bonds


  • Durham, J. Benson

    (Federal Reserve Bank of New York)


Purportedly consistent with “risk parity” (RP) asset allocation, recent studies document compelling “low risk” trading strategies that exploit a persistently negative relation between Sharpe ratios (SRs) and maturity along the U.S. Treasury (UST) term structure. This paper extends this evidence on betting against beta with government bonds (BABgov) in four respects. First, out-of-sample tests suggest that excess returns may have waned somewhat recently and that the pattern seems most pronounced for USTs given data on ten other previously unexamined government bond markets. Second, BABgov appears robust when hedged ex-ante against covariance with equities and thereby does not resemble selling volatility, but these results nonetheless belie a possible tension rather than consistency between leverage constraints and low-risk investing: namely, that investors bid longer-dated UST prices higher (lower) under BAB (RP). Third, the fact that Gaussian affine term structure models of USTs also imply an inverted SR schedule suggests that investors cannot, in fact, realize abnormal returns if they are fully hedged to the underlying model factors, and BABgov excess returns are indeed not robust to ex-ante constraints on exposure to the yield curve’s principal components. Fourth, some evidence suggests that previous BABgov results reflect coskew preferences, alternative BABgov strategies hedged to coskew risks ex-ante forgo substantial returns, and there is no indication that investors can earn excess returns betting against gamma. However, the sign of investors’ coskew preferences in government bond markets remains ambiguous.

Suggested Citation

  • Durham, J. Benson, 2015. "Betting against beta (and gamma) using government bonds," Staff Reports 708, Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:708

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Baz,Jamil & Chacko,George, 2004. "Financial Derivatives," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521815109, March.
    2. Refet S. Gürkaynak & Brian Sack & Eric Swanson, 2005. "The Sensitivity of Long-Term Interest Rates to Economic News: Evidence and Implications for Macroeconomic Models," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 425-436, March.
    3. Roll, Richard, 1977. "A critique of the asset pricing theory's tests Part I: On past and potential testability of the theory," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 4(2), pages 129-176, March.
    4. LuisM. Viceira & John Y. Campbell, 2001. "Who Should Buy Long-Term Bonds?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(1), pages 99-127, March.
    5. Adrian, Tobias & Crump, Richard K. & Moench, Emanuel, 2013. "Pricing the term structure with linear regressions," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(1), pages 110-138.
    6. Giovanni Barone Adesi & Patrick Gagliardini & Giovanni Urga, 2004. "Testing Asset Pricing Models With Coskewness," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 22, pages 474-485, October.
    7. Fama, Eugene F. & French, Kenneth R., 1993. "Common risk factors in the returns on stocks and bonds," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 3-56, February.
    8. Todd Mitton & Keith Vorkink, 2007. "Equilibrium Underdiversification and the Preference for Skewness," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 20(4), pages 1255-1288.
    9. Fama, Eugene F & MacBeth, James D, 1973. "Risk, Return, and Equilibrium: Empirical Tests," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 607-636, May-June.
    10. Greg Duffee, 2010. "Sharpe ratios in term structure models," Economics Working Paper Archive 575, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
    11. Campbell R. Harvey & Akhtar Siddique, 2000. "Conditional Skewness in Asset Pricing Tests," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(3), pages 1263-1295, June.
    12. Kraus, Alan & Litzenberger, Robert H, 1976. "Skewness Preference and the Valuation of Risk Assets," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1085-1100, September.
    13. Friend, Irwin & Westerfield, Randolph, 1980. " Co-Skewness and Capital Asset Pricing," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 35(4), pages 897-913, September.
    14. Black, Fischer, 1972. "Capital Market Equilibrium with Restricted Borrowing," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(3), pages 444-455, July.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item


    asset pricing; term structure; risk parity; betting against beta;

    JEL classification:

    • G10 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - General (includes Measurement and Data)
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G15 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - International Financial Markets


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:fip:fednsr:708. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Amy Farber). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.