Betting Against Correlation: Testing Theories of the Low-Risk Effect
73 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2017 Last revised: 21 Jun 2018
Date Written: January 31, 2016
We test whether the low-risk effect is driven by (a) leverage constraints and thus risk should be measured using beta vs. (b) behavioral effects and thus risk should be measured by idiosyncratic risk. Beta depends on volatility and correlation, where only volatility is related to idiosyncratic risk. We introduce a new betting against correlation (BAC) factor that is particularly suited to differentiate between leverage constraints vs. lottery explanations. BAC produces strong performance in the US and internationally, supporting leverage constraint theories. Similarly, we construct the new factor SMAX to isolate lottery demand, which also produces positive returns. Consistent with both leverage and lottery theories contributing to the low-risk effect, we find that BAC is related to margin debt while idiosyncratic risk factors are related to sentiment.
Keywords: asset pricing, leverage constraints, lottery demand, margin, sentiment
JEL Classification: G02, G12, G14, G15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation