Essays in Asset Pricing

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2013

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Bansal, Ravi

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Abstract

The three essays in this dissertation explore the role of fluctuations in aggregate volatility and global temperature as sources of systemic risk.

The first essay proposes a production-based asset pricing model and provides empirical evidence suggesting that compensation for volatility risk is closely related to an unexplored characteristic of a firm, namely, its reliance on skilled labor. I propose a model in which aggregate growth has time-varying volatility, and linear adjustment costs in labor increase with the skill of a worker. The model predicts that expected returns increase with a firm's reliance on skilled labor, as well as compensation for fluctuations in aggregate uncertainty. Consequently, a rise in aggregate uncertainty predicts an increase in expected returns as well as in cautiousness in hiring and firing. This impact is larger for firms with a high share of skilled workers because their labor is more costly to adjust. I empirically test the implications of the model using occupational estimates to construct a measure of a firm's reliance on skilled labor, and find a positive and statistically significant cross-sectional relation between the reliance on skilled labor and expected returns. Empirical estimates also show that an increase in aggregate uncertainty leads to a rise in expected returns, and this impact is larger for firms which rely heavily on skilled labor; thereby, a firm's exposure to aggregate volatility is positively related to its reliance on skilled labor.

In the second and third essay, co-authored with Ravi Bansal, we explore the impact of global temperature on financial markets and the macroeconomy. In tho second essay we explore if temperature is an aggregate risk factor that adversely affects economic growth. First, using data on global capital markets we find that the risk-exposure of these returns to temperature shocks, i.e., their temperature beta, is a highly significant variable in accounting for cross-sectional differences in expected returns. Second, using a panel of countries we show that GDP growth is negatively related to global temperature, suggesting that temperature can be a source of aggregate risk. To interpret the empirical evidence, we present a quantitative consumption-based long-run risks model that quantitatively accounts for the observed cross-sectional differences in temperature betas, the compensation for temperature risk, and the connection between aggregate growth and temperature risks.

The last essay proposes a general equilibrium model that simultaneously models the world economy and global climate to understand the impact of climate change on the economy. We use this model to evaluate the role of temperature in determining asset prices, and to compute utility-based welfare costs as well as dollar costs of insuring against temperature fluctuations. We find that the temperature related utility-costs are about 0.78% of consumption, and the total dollar costs of completely insuring against temperature variation are 2.46% of world GDP. If we allow for temperature-triggered natural disasters to impact growth, insuring against temperature variation raise to 5.47% of world GDP.

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Ochoa-Coloma, Juan Marcelo (2013). Essays in Asset Pricing. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/7227.

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