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Rare Macroeconomic Disasters

  • Robert J. Barro
  • José F. Ursua

The potential for rare macroeconomic disasters may explain an array of asset-pricing puzzles. Our empirical studies of these extreme events rely on long-term data now covering 28 countries for consumption and 40 for GDP. A baseline model calibrated with observed peak-to-trough disaster sizes accords with the average equity premium with a reasonable coefficient of relative risk aversion. High stock-price volatility can be explained by incorporating time-varying long-run growth rates and disaster probabilities. Business-cycle models with shocks to disaster probability have implications for the cyclical behavior of asset returns and corporate leverage, and international versions may explain the uncovered-interest-parity puzzle. Richer models of disaster dynamics allow for transitions between normalcy and disaster, bring in post-crisis recoveries, and use the full time series on consumption. Potential future research includes applications to long-term economic growth and environmental economics and the use of stock-price options and other variables to gauge time-varying disaster probabilities.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 17328.

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Date of creation: Aug 2011
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Robert J. Barro & Jos� F. Urs�a, 2012. "Rare Macroeconomic Disasters," Annual Review of Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 4(1), pages 83-109, 07.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:17328
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