Dispersion and Volatility in Stock Returns: an Empirical Investigation
42 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 1998 Last revised: 12 Oct 2010
Date Written: May 1999
This paper studies three different measures of monthly stock market volatility: the time-series volatility of daily market returns within the month; the cross-sectional volatility or 'dispersion' of daily returns on industry portfolios, relative to the market, within the month; and the dispersion of daily returns on individual firms, relative to their industries, within the month. Over the period 1962-97 there has been a noticeable increase in firm-level volatility relative to market volatility. All the volatility measures move together in a countercyclical fashion. While market volatility tends to lead the other volatility series, industry-level volatility is a particularly important leading indicator for the business cycle.
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