…and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns

101 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2013 Last revised: 21 Apr 2015

Campbell R. Harvey

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

Yan Liu

Texas A&M University, Department of Finance

Heqing Zhu

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Date Written: February 3, 2015

Abstract

Hundreds of papers and hundreds of factors attempt to explain the cross-section of expected returns. Given this extensive data mining, it does not make any economic or statistical sense to use the usual significance criteria for a newly discovered factor, e.g., a t-ratio greater than 2.0. However, what hurdle should be used for current research? Our paper introduces a multiple testing framework and provides a time series of historical significance cutoffs from the first empirical tests in 1967 to today. Our new method allows for correlation among the tests as well as publication bias. We also project forward 20 years assuming the rate of factor production remains similar to the experience of the last few years. The estimation of our model suggests that today a newly discovered factor needs to clear a much higher hurdle, with a t-ratio greater than 3.0. Echoing a recent disturbing conclusion in the medical literature, we argue that most claimed research findings in financial economics are likely false.

Our key results are summarized:

Keywords: Risk factors, Multiple tests, Beta, HML, SMB, 3-factor model, Momentum, Volatility, Skewness, Idiosyncratic volatility, Liquidity, Bonferroni, Factor zoo

JEL Classification: G12, G14, G30, G00, C12, C20, B41

Suggested Citation

Harvey, Campbell R. and Liu, Yan and Zhu, Heqing, …and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns (February 3, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2249314 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2249314

Campbell R. Harvey (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
919-660-7768 (Phone)
919-660-8030 (Fax)

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative ( email )

215 Morris St., Suite 300
Durham, NC 27701
United States

Yan Liu

Texas A&M University, Department of Finance ( email )

Wehner 401Q, MS 4353
College Station, TX 77843-4218
United States

Heqing Zhu

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

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