Where to From Here?
The New International Financial System Analyzing the Cumulative Impact of Regulatory Reform. D. Evanoff, A. Haldane, and G. Kaufman, eds. (2015) 569-577
Ever since the Great Recession, the global financial regulatory system has undergone significant changes. But have these changes been sufficient? Have they created a new problem of over-regulation? Is the system currently in a better position than in the pre-Recession years, or have we not adequately addressed the basic causes of the financial crisis and resulting Great Recession These were the questions and issues addressed in the seventeenth annual international banking conference held at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago in November 2014. In collaboration with the Bank of England, the theme of the conference was to examine the state of the new global financial system as it has evolved in response to significant market changes and regulatory reforms triggered by the global financial crisis. The papers from that conference are collected in this volume, with contributions from an international array of government officials, regulators, industry practitioners and academics.
The Wisdom of Crowds vs. the Madness of Mobs
Handbook of Collective Intelligence. Thomas Malone and Michael Bernstein eds. (2015) 21-37
Intelligence does not arise only in individual brains; it also arises in groups of individuals. This is collective intelligence: groups of individuals acting collectively in ways that seem intelligent. In recent years, a new kind of collective intelligence has emerged: interconnected groups of people and computers, collectively doing intelligent things. Today these groups are engaged in tasks that range from writing software to predicting the results of presidential elections. This volume reports on the latest research in the study of collective intelligence, laying out a shared set of research challenges from a variety of disciplinary and methodological perspectives. Taken together, these essays—by leading researchers from such fields as computer science, biology, economics, and psychology—lay the foundation for a new multidisciplinary field.
with Thomas J Brennan and Tri-Dung Nguyen, The Princeton Companion to Applied Mathematics (2015) 648-658
Pioneered by the Nobel Prize–winning economist Harry Markowitz over half a century ago, portfolio theory is one of the oldest branches of modern financial economics. It addresses the fundamental question faced by an investor: how should money best be allocated across a number of possible investment choices? That is, what collection or portfolio of financial assets should be chosen? In this article, we describe the fundamentals of portfolio theory and methods for its practical implementation. We focus on a fixed time horizon for investment, which we generally take to be a year, but the period may be as short as days or as long as several years. We summarize many important innovations over the past several decades, including techniques for better understanding how financial prices behave, robust methods for estimating input parameters, Bayesian methods, and resampling techniques.
Attack of the Clones
with Jasmina Hasanhodzic, Alpha Magazine
Hedge funds are considered by many investors to be an attractive investment, thanks in large part to their diversification benefits and distinctive risk profiles. The major drawbacks are their high fees and lack of transparency. Research by Jasmina Hasanhodzic and Andrew W. Lo of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology raises the possibility of creating passive portfolios that provide similar risk exposures to those of hedge funds at lower costs and with greater transparency. Hasanhodzic and Lo find that for certain hedge fund strategies, these hedge fund “clones” perform well enough to warrant serious consideration.
Survival of the Richest
Harvard Business Review
In financial markets, as in many human endeavors, there’s a battle between reason and madness. On one side are the disciples of the efficient-markets hypothesis: the notion that markets fully, accurately, and instantaneously incorporate all relevant information into prices. These adherents assume that market participants are rational, always acting in their own interest and making mathematically optimal decisions. On the other side are the champions of behavioral economics: a younger discipline that points to bubbles, crashes, panics, manias, and other distinctly unreasonable phenomena as evidence of irrationality.
It’s hard to deny that investors act irrationally from time to time, yet behavioralists have so far failed to offer an alternative to supplant the efficient-markets hypothesis, which does brilliantly explain many economic occurrences and has had an enormous impact on modern financial theory and practice. Both approaches seem to have compelling explanatory power in their own right, yet they have opposing premises: rationality versus human psychology. How can the efficient-markets hypothesis and behavioral economics ever be reconciled? Perhaps by looking to Charles Darwin instead of Adam Smith.
Fear, Greed, and Financial Crises: A Cognitive Neurosciences Perspective
Handbook of Systemic Risk, edited by J.P. Fouque and J. Langsam
Abstract Historical accounts of financial crises suggest that fear and greed are the common denominators of these disruptive events: periods of unchecked greed eventually lead to excessive leverage and unsustainable asset-price levels, and the inevitable collapse results in unbridled fear, which must subside before any recovery is possible. The cognitive neurosciences may provide some new insights into this boom/bust pattern through a deeper understanding of the dynamics of emotion and human behavior. In this chapter, I describe some recent research from the neurosciences literature on fear and reward learning, mirror neurons, theory of mind, and the link between emotion and rational behavior. By exploring the neuroscientific basis of cognition and behavior, we may be able to identify more fundamental drivers of financial crises, and improve our models and methods for dealing with them.
Reading About the Financial Crisis: A Twenty-One-Book Review
Journal of Economic Literature 50 (2012), 151-178.
The recent financial crisis has generated many distinct perspectives from various quarters. In this article, I review a diverse set of 21 books on the crisis, 11 written by academics, and 10 written by journalists and one former Treasury Secretary. No single narrative emerges from this broad and often contradictory collection of interpretations, but the sheer variety of conclusions is informative, and underscores the desperate need for the economics profession to establish a single set of facts from which more accurate inferences and narratives can be constructed.
Stock Market Trading Volume
with Jiang Wang, Handbook of Financial Econometrics, Volume 2, 2010, North-Holland
If price and quantity are the fundamental building blocks of any theory of market interactions, the importance of trading volume in understanding the behavior of financial markets is clear. However, while many economic models of financial markets have been developed to explain the behavior of prices—predictability, variability, and information content—far less attention has been devoted to explaining the behavior of trading volume. In this article, we hope to expand our understanding of trading volume by developing well-articulated economic models of asset prices and volume and empirically estimating them using recently available daily volume data for individual securities from the University of Chicago's Center for Research in Securities Prices. Our theoretical contributions include: (1) an economic definition of volume that is most consistent with theoretical models of trading activity; (2) the derivation of volume implications of basic portfolio theory; and (3) the development of an intertemporal equilibrium model of asset market in which the trading process is determined endogenously by liquidity needs and risk sharing motives. Our empirical contributions include: (1) the construction of a volume/returns database extract of the CRSP volume data; (2) comprehensive exploratory data analysis of both the time-series and cross-sectional properties of trading volume; (3) estimation and inference for price/volume relations implied by asset-pricing models; and (4) a new approach for empirically identifying factors to be included in a linear-factor model of asset returns using volume data.
Efficient Markets Hypothesis
The New Palgrave: A Dictionary of Economics, edited by L. Blume and S. Durlauf, Second Edition, 2007. New York: Palgrave McMillan.
The Efficient Markets Hypothesis (EMH) refers to the notion that market prices fully reflects all available information. Developed independently by Paul A. Samuelson and Eugene F. Fama in the 1960's, this idea has been applied extensively to theoretical models and empirical studies of financial securities prices, generating considerable controversy as well as fundamental insights into the price-discovery process. The most enduring critique comes from psychologists and behavioral economists who argue that the EMH is based on counterfactual assumptions regarding human behavior, i.e., rationality. Recent advances in evolutionary psychology and the cognitive neurosciences may be able to reconcile the EMH with behavioral anomalies.
Systemic Risk and Hedge Funds
with Nicholas Chan, Mila Getmansky, Shane M. Haas, The Risks of Financial Institutions and the Financial Sector, edited by M. Carey and R. Stulz, 2007. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.
In this article, we attempt to quantify the potential impact of hedge funds on systemic risk by developing a number of new risk measures for hedge funds and applying them to individual and aggregate hedge-fund returns data. These measures include: illiquidity risk exposure, nonlinear factor models for hedge-fund and banking-sector indexes, logistic regression analysis of hedge-fund liquidation probabilities, and aggregate measures of volatility and distress based on regime-switching models. Our preliminary findings suggest that the hedge-fund industry may be heading into a challenging period of lower expected returns, and that systemic risk is currently on the rise.