Cross-Sectional Dispersion and Expected Returns
33 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2016
Date Written: December 12, 2015
This study investigates whether the cross-sectional dispersion of stock returns, which reflects the aggregate level of idiosyncratic risk in the market, represents a priced state variable. We find that stocks with high sensitivities to dispersion offer low expected returns. Furthermore, a zero-cost spread portfolio that is long (short) in stocks with low (high) dispersion betas produces a statistically and economically significant return, after accounting for its exposure to other systematic risk factors. Dispersion is associated with a significantly negative risk premium in the cross-section (-1.32% per annum) which is distinct from premia commanded by a set of alternative systematic factors. These results are robust to a wide set of stock characteristics, market conditions, and industry groupings.
Keywords: Cross-sectional dispersion, cross-section of stock returns, pricing factor
JEL Classification: G11, G12
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