On Black’s Leverage Effect in Firms with No Leverage2019
One of the most enduring empirical regularities in equity markets is the inverse relationship between stock prices and volatility. Also known as the “leverage effect”, this relationship was first documented by Black (1976), who attributed it to the effects of financial or operating leverage. This paper documents that firms which had no debt (and thus no financial leverage) from January 1973 to December 2017 exhibit Black’s leverage effect. Moreover, it finds that the leverage effect of firms in this sample is not driven by operating leverage. On the contrary, in this sample the leverage effect is stronger for firms with low operating leverage as compared to those with high operating leverage. Interestingly, the firms with no debt from the lowest quintile of operating leverage exhibit the leverage effect that is on par with or stronger than that of debt-financed firms.
All the News that’s Fit to Print2018
The information revolution has transformed everyday life for billions of people throughout the world. For example, according to mobile phone research group GSMA Intelligence, there are currently over 5 billion unique mobile phone subscribers, out of an estimated global population of 7.6 billion. This is the equivalent of a mobile phone for every person on the planet between the ages of 15 and 65.
Is Smaller Better? A Proposal to Use Bacteria for Neuroscientific Modeling2018
Bacteria are easily characterizable model organisms with an impressively complicated set of abilities. Among them is quorum sensing, a cell-cell signaling system that may have a common evolutionary origin with eukaryotic cell-cell signaling. The two systems are behaviorally similar, but quorum sensing in bacteria is more easily studied in depth than cell-cell signaling in eukaryotes. Because of this comparative ease of study, bacterial dynamics are also more suited to direct interpretation than eukaryotic dynamics, e.g., those of the neuron. Here we review literature on neuron-like qualities of bacterial colonies and biofilms, including ion-based and hormonal signaling, and a phenomenon similar to the graded action potential. This suggests that bacteria could be used to help create more accurate and detailed biological models in neuroscientific research. More speculatively, bacterial systems may be considered an analog for neurons in biologically based computational research, allowing models to better harness the tremendous ability of biological organisms to process information and make decisions.
Variety Is the Spice of Life: Irrational Behavior as Adaptation to Stochastic Environments2018
The debate between rational models of behavior and their systematic deviations, often referred to as “irrational behavior”, has attracted an enormous amount of research. Here, we reconcile the debate by proposing an evolutionary explanation for irrational behavior. In the context of a simple binary choice model, we show that irrational behaviors are necessary for evolution in stochastic environments. Furthermore, there is an optimal degree of irrationality in the population depending on the degree of environmental randomness. In this process, mutation provides the important link between rational and irrational behaviors, and hence the variety in evolution. Our results yield widespread implications for financial markets, corporate behavior, and disciplines beyond finance.
The Growth of Relative Wealth and the Kelly Criterion2017
We propose an evolutionary framework for optimal portfolio growth theory in which investors subject to environmental pressures allocate their wealth between two assets. By considering both absolute wealth and relative wealth between investors, we show that different investor behaviors survive in different environments. When investors maximize their relative wealth, the Kelly criterion is optimal only under certain conditions, which are identified. The initial relative wealth plays a critical role in determining the deviation of optimal behavior from the Kelly criterion regardless of whether the investor is myopic across a single time period or maximizing wealth over an infinite horizon. We relate these results to population genetics, and discuss testable consequences of these findings using experimental evolution.
Stop-loss Strategies with Serial Correlation, Regime Switching, and Transaction Costs2017
Stop-loss strategies are commonly used by investors to reduce their holdings in risky assets if prices or total wealth breach certain pre- specified thresholds. We derive closed-form expressions for the impact of stop-loss strategies on asset returns that are serially correlated, regime switching, and subject to transaction costs. When applied to a large sample of individual U.S. stocks, we show that tight stop-loss strategies tend to under-perform the buy-and-hold policy in a mean-variance frame work due to excessive trading costs. Outperformance is possible for stocks with sufficiently high serial correlation in returns. Certain strategies succeed at reducing downside risk, but not substantially.
Hedge Fund Holdings and Stock Market Efficiency2017
We examine the relation between changes in hedge fund equity holdings and measures of informational efficiency of stock prices derived from intraday transactions as well as daily data. On average, hedge fund ownership of stocks leads to greater improvements in price efficiency than mutual fund or bank ownership, especially for stocks held by hedge funds with high portfolio turnover and superior security selection skills. However, stocks held by hedge funds experienced large declines in price efficiency in the last quarter of 2008, particularly if the funds were connected to Lehman Brothers as a prime broker and used leverage in combination with lenient redemption terms.
What Is An Index?2016
Technological advances in telecommunications, securities exchanges, and algorithmic trading have facilitated a host of new investment products that resemble theme-based passive indexes but which depart from traditional market-cap-weighted portfolios. I propose broadening the definition of an index using a functional perspective—any portfolio strategy that satisfies three properties should be considered an index: (1) it is completely transparent; (2) it is investable; and (3) it is systematic, i.e., it is entirely rules-based and contains no judgment or unique investment skill. Portfolios satisfying these properties that are not market-cap-weighted are given a new name: “dynamic indexes.” This functional definition widens the universe of possibilities and, most importantly, decouples risk management from alpha generation. Passive strategies can and should be actively risk managed, and I provide a simple example of how this can be achieved. Dynamic indexes also create new challenges of which the most significant is backtest bias, and I conclude with a proposal for managing this risk.
The Gordon Gekko Effect: The Role of Culture in the Financial Industry2016
Culture is a potent force in shaping individual and group behavior, yet it has received scant attention in the context of financial risk management and the recent financial crisis. I present a brief overview of the role of culture according to psychologists, sociologists, and economists, and then present a specific framework for analyzing culture in the context of financial practices and institutions in which three questions are answered: (1) What is culture?; (2) Does it matter?; and (3) Can it be changed? I illustrate the utility of this framework by applying it to five concrete situations—Long Term Capital Management; AIG Financial Products; Lehman Brothers and Repo 105; Société Générale’s rogue trader; and the SEC and the Madoff Ponzi scheme—and conclude with a proposal to change culture via “behavioral risk management.”
The Wisdom of Crowds Vs. the Madness of Mobs2015
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.