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The Limits of Diversification When Losses May Be Large

  • Rustam Ibragimov
  • Johan Walden

Recent results in value at risk analysis show that, for extremely heavy-tailed risks with unbounded distribution support, diversification may increase value at risk, and that, generally, it is difficult to construct an appropriate risk measure for such distributions. We further analyze the limitations of diversification for heavy-tailed risks. We provide additional insight in two ways. First, we show that similar nondiversification results are valid for a large class of risks with bounded support, as long as the risks are concentrated on a sufficiently large interval. The required length of the support depends on the number of risks available and on the degree of heavy-tailedness. Second, we relate the value at risk approach to more general risk frameworks. We argue that in financial markets where the number of assets is limited compared with the (bounded) distributional support of the risks, unbounded heavy-tailed risks may provide a reasonable approximation. We suggest that this type of analysis may have a role in explaining various types of market failures in markets for assets with possibly large negative outcomes.

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Paper provided by Harvard - Institute of Economic Research in its series Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers with number 2104.

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Date of creation: 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fth:harver:2104
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