Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Paul A. Weller
In this dissertation, I study the performance of asset-pricing models in explaining the cross section of expected stock returns. The finance literature has uncovered several potential failings of the Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM). I investigate the ability of additional risk factors, which are not considered by the CAPM, to explain these problems. In particular, I examine intertemporal risk and long-run risk in the cross section of returns. In addition, I develop a firm-level test to refine and reassess the cross-sectional evidence against the CAPM.
In the first chapter, I test the cross-sectional implications of the Intertemporal CAPM (ICAPM) of Merton (1973) and Campbell (1993, 1996) using a new firm-level approach. I find that the ICAPM performs well in explaining returns. Consistent with theoretical predictions, investors require a large positive premium for taking on market risk and zero-beta assets earn the risk-free rate. Moreover, investors accept lower returns on assets that hedge against adverse shifts in the investment opportunity set. The ICAPM explains more cross-sectional variation in average returns than either the CAPM or Fama-French (1993) model. I also investigate whether the SMB and HML factors of the Fama-French model proxy for intertemporal risk and find little evidence in favor of this conjecture.
In the second chapter, we propose an intertemporal asset-pricing model that simultaneously resolves the puzzling negative relations between expected stock return and analysts' forecast dispersion, idiosyncratic volatility, and credit risk. All three effects emerge in a long-run risk economy accommodating a formal cross section of firms characterized by mean-reverting expected dividend growth. Higher cash flow duration firms exhibit higher exposure to economic growth shocks while they are less sensitive to firm-specific news. Such firms command higher risk premiums but exhibit lower measures of idiosyncratic risk. Empirical evidence broadly supports our model's predictions, as higher dispersion, idiosyncratic volatility, and credit risk firms display lower exposure to long-run risk along with higher firm-specific risk.
Lastly, in the third chapter, we examine asset-pricing anomalies at the firm level. Portfolio-level tests linking CAPM alphas to a large number of firm characteristics suggest that the CAPM fails across multiple dimensions. There are, however, concerns that underlying firm-level associations may be distorted at the portfolio level. In this paper we use a hierarchical Bayes approach to model conditional firm-level alphas as a function of firm characteristics. Our empirical results indicate that much of the portfolio-based evidence against the CAPM is overstated. Anomalies are primarily confined to small stocks, few characteristics are robustly associated with CAPM alphas out of sample, and most firm characteristics do not contain unique information about abnormal returns.
Copyright 2011 Scott Cederburg