< The Finance Professionals' Post: September 2014

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9 posts from September 2014


The Macroeconomic Effects of Housing Wealth, Housing Finance, and Limited Risk-Sharing in General Equilibrium


SvnieuweThis paper studies the role of time-varying risk premia as a channel for generating and propagating ‡fluctuations in housing markets, aggregate quantities, and consumption and wealth heterogeneity. We study a two-sector general equilibrium model of housing and non-housing production where heterogeneous households face limited opportunities to insure against aggregate and idiosyncratic risks. The model generates large variability in the national house price-rent ratio, both because it ‡fluctuates endogenously with the state of the economy and because it rises in response to a relaxation of credit constraints and decline in housing transaction costs (…financial market liberalization). These factors, together with a rise in foreign ownership of U.S. debt calibrated to match the actual increase over the period 2000-2006, generate ‡fluctuations in the model price-rent ratio that explains a large fraction of the increase in the national price-rent ratio observed in U.S. data over this period. The model also predicts a sharp decline in home prices starting in 2007, driven by the economic contraction and by a presumed reversal of the …financial market liberalization. Fluctuations in the model’s price-rent ratio are driven by changing risk premia, which ‡fluctuate endogenously in response to cyclical shocks, the …financial market liberalization, and its subsequent reversal. By contrast, we show that the infl‡ow of foreign money into domestic bond markets plays a small role in driving home prices, despite its large depressing infl‡uence on interest rates. Finally, the model implies that procyclical increases in equilibrium price-rent ratios re‡flect rational expectations of lower future housing returns, not higher future rents. JEL: G11, G12, E44, E21.


–Jack Favilukis, LSE; Sydney C. Ludvigson, NYU and NBER; Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, NYU NBER CEPR

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Favilukis: Department of Finance, London School of Economics, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE; Email: j.favilukis@lse.ac.uk, http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/~jfaviluk. Ludvigson: Depart- ment of Economics, New York University, 19 W. 4th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10012; Email: sydney.ludvigson@nyu.edu; Tel: (212) 998-8927; http://www.econ.nyu.edu/user/ludvigsons/. Van Nieuwerburgh : Department of Finance, Stern School of Business, New York University, 44 W. 4th Street, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10012; Email: svnieuwe@stern.nyu.edu; Tel: (212) 998-0673; http://pages.stern.nyu.edu/ svnieuwe/. This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1022915 to Ludvigson and Van Nieuwerburgh. We are grateful to Alberto Bisin, Daniele Coen-Pirani, Dean Corbae, Morris Davis, Bernard Dumas, Raquel Fernandez, Car- los Garriga, Bruno Gerard, Francisco Gomes, James Kahn, John Leahy, Chris Mayer, Jonathan McCarthy, Francois Ortalo-Magne, Stavros Panageas, Monika Piazzesi, Richard Peach, Gianluca Violante, Amir Yaron, and to seminar participants at Erasmus Rotterdam, the European Central Bank, ICEF, HEC Montreal, Lon- don School of Economics, London Business School, Manchester Business School, NYU, Stanford Economics, Stanford Finance, UCLA Finance, University of California Berkeley Finance, Université de Lausanne, Uni- versity of Michigan, University of Tilburg, University of Toronto, the University of Virginia McIntyre/Darden joint seminar, the American Economic Association annual meetings, January 2009 and January 2010, the ERID conference at Duke 2010, the London School of Economics Conference on Housing, Financial Markets, and the Macroeconomy May 18-19, 2009, the Minnesota Workshop in Macroeconomic Theory July 2009, the NBER Economic Fluctuations and Growth conference, February 2010, the European Finance Association meetings Frankfurt 2010, the NBER PERE Summer Institute meeting July 2010, the SED Montreal 2010, and the Utah Winter Finance Conference February 2010, the NBER Asset Pricing Meeting April 2011, the 2011 WFA meeting, the Baruch NYC Real Estate Meeting 2012, and the 2012 Philadephia Workshop on Macroeconomics for helpful comments. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.


Derivatives and Systemic Risk: It’s Also about Jobs

Derivatives are the least understood component of systemic risk. Derivatives pose issues of size, measurement, and behavior—unlike loans. They string the biggest banks together in ways unseen three decades ago and even undermine job creation. Government officials may have had to bail in 2008, but nobody can claim that there will be no more bailouts until derivatives are better understood and managed.

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Three Popular Myths about the CFA Exam Multiple Choice Question Format

As every CFA® candidate will know, the CFA exams are largely comprised of multiple choice questions. This doesn't mean that they're easy to pass - as we've calculated, you're statistically more likely to win Euromillions than to pass the CFA exams by chance.

There are also many myths associated with the CFA multiple choice question format that CFA candidates still wrongly assume. We've covered tips on how to guess intelligently in the exams, and to our regular readers some of these will come as no surprise. But especially for those taking the exam in December, in this post we aim to bust more myths and clear the air for our readers about the CFA multiple choice question format before the upcoming exams.

Myth #1: Multiple-choice questions - it isn't that hard.

When I was in high school, I loved multiple-choice questions. They were the ideal exam format for my unrivalled laziness at studying, matched only by my desire to do well. And with multiple-choice, I could serve both interests - reading between the lines, you could sometimes correctly deduce the right answer without much contextual knowledge of the topic, as the wrong answers were not very convincing substitutes. This means you could study a heck of a lot less and still manage to do reasonably well. Exploiting this flaw in the system has served millions of lazy students like me very well through the decades.

The CFA exams, however, is not one of these systems.

I think it’s fair to say that CFA Institute probably puts as much effort into every wrong answer (distractors) than the right one. Creating the right answer is relatively easy for CFA Institute - you just answer the question correctly, and that’s it. To design the distractors, it’s a process of testing for most common mistakes made when one attempts the questions and offering them alongside the correct answer - meaning that two of the most common wrong answers among candidates tend to accompany the right answer.

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Good Habits of Top Performers

Each career is unique.  But, looking more closely, there are a handful of skills and habits that “successful” people commonly share.  Here are four of them, based on my professional experience.  

Continuing learning 

This will require dedication and discipline—both of which are difficult to fit into a lifestyle of quasi-instant gratification.  Moreover, in an increasingly dynamic learning environment, the quality and cost (where "expensive" might not always equal "good") of materials and instruction can vary enormously.  

That said, continuing education is very important at every stage of one’s career. We tend to disregard it at the beginning when we are fresh out of school, as the steep on-the-job learning curve can give the misleading impression that we are reaching maximum capacity. However, this is not enough. Those who get ahead continue to learn early on, beyond the daily grind. This is even more critical as we progress in our careers, but without getting any easier. The most successful have turned learning into a habit.  

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Email Subject Lines: How to Handle Boring Disclosures

What subject line should you use when you send clients a disclosure via email? This question came up came up when I spoke to the Financial Planning Association of Massachusetts in 2013. 

The problem: Losing your clients’ attention

You send some emails because you need to move clients to action. Others, such as disclosures required by regulators, are less compelling.Choose your subject lines carefully, if you don’t want these emails to discourage your clients from reading your emails.

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Book Review: China Goes West


The financial world lives to gain from new trends, to get out front, grab an edge, and bring in the profits before the trend matures and a lot of competition moves in. With this focus, Joel Backaler's new book is especially welcome in its description of, and insights on, the ramping up of Chinese overseas investments. China Goes West: Everything You Need to Know About Chinese Companies Going Global has detailed, sophisticated analysis of the Chinese companies that are expanding outward, and of what this can involve. It is a realistic picture rather than just a trend forecast.

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The “Greatest” Carry Trade Ever? Understanding Eurozone Bank Risks


We show that eurozone bank risks during 2007-2013 can be understood as “carry trade” behavior. Bank equity returns load positively on peripheral (Greece, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, or GIIPS) bond returns and negatively on German government bond returns, which generated “carry” until the deteriorating GIIPS bond returns adversely affected bank balance sheets. We find support for risk-shifting and regulatory arbitrage motives at banks in that carry trade behavior is stronger for large banks and banks with low capital ratios and high risk-weighted assets. We also find evidence for home bias and moral suasion in the subsample of GIIPS banks. 


–Viral V. Acharya† Sascha Steffen‡

We thank an anonymous referee, Jacob Boudoukh, Martin Brown, Filippo di Mauro, Ruediger Fahlenbrach, Mariassunta Giannetti, Paul Glasserman, Paul Heidhues, Martin Hellwig, Gur Huberman, Vasso Ioannidou, Anil Kashyap, Bryan Kelly, Jan-Pieter Krahnen, David Lesmond, Christian Leuz, Marco Pagano, Hélène Rey, Joerg Rocholl, Anthony Saunders, Phil Strahan, Anjan Thakor, Elu von Thadden, Lucy White, Andrew Winton and participants in the 2014 Moody’s / SAIF Credit Research Conference, 2014 Conference on Regulating Financial Intermediaries, 2013 SFS Cavalcade, 2013 NBER Summer Institute IFM, 2013 CAF Summer Research Conference, 2013 FIRS Conference, 12th annual FDIC / JFSR conference, 49th Bank Structure and Competition Conference, 2012 C.R.E.D.I.T., 2nd Mofir Ancona and seminar participants at Darden, Deutsche Bundesbank, ESMT, Goethe University, Indiana, Lancaster, Leeds, Mainz, Norges Bank, NYU Stern, Ohio State University, Osnabrueck, and Tulane for valuable comments and suggestions. We are grateful to Matteo Crosignani and Diane Pierret for excellent research assistance. 

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Young, Fabulous and Unemployed: Strategies for Survival, Part II

Early-autumn weather is bracing. Millions of students eagerly gear up for a new school year.  Business leaders fine-tune their strategy for the fourth-quarter push.  It’s a time of optimism, renewed energy, and forward-looking thinking. 

But these times are painful for people who are unemployed. So, if you’re a recent college grad, it’s understandable that you miss the structure, rhythms, and deadlines of the semester. 

Bottom line: Take a job—any job.  As long as it won’t harm our health or violate you ethics, any job is better than no job.  If you hate it, leave it.  But it’s worth a try. 

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Recent Research: Highlights from Summer 2014

"Return Predictability and Dynamic Asset Allocation: How Often Should Investors Rebalance?"
The Journal of Portfolio Management (Summer 2014
Himanshu Almadi, David E. Rapach, and Anil Suri

To exploit return predictability via dynamic asset allocation, investors face the important practical issue of how often to rebalance their portfolios. More frequent rebalancing uses statistically and economically significant short-horizon return predictability to aggressively pursue the dynamic investment opportunities afforded by changes in expected returns. However, the degree of return predictability typically appears stronger at longer horizons, which, along with lower transaction costs, favors less frequent rebalancing. The authors analyze the performance effects of rebalancing frequency in the context of dynamic portfolios constructed from monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, and annual return forecasts for US stocks, bonds, and bills, where the dynamic portfolios rebalance at the same frequency as the forecast horizon. Along the transaction-cost/rebalancing frontier, monthly (annual) rebalancing provides the greatest outperformance when unit transaction costs are below (above) approximately 50 basis points, and dynamic portfolios based on annual rebalancing typically outperform the benchmarks for unit transaction costs well in excess of 400 basis points.

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