Volatility and the Cross-Section of Real Estate Equity Returns during COVID-19
36 Pages Posted: 13 May 2020 Last revised: 16 Apr 2021
Date Written: May 12, 2020
This paper uses the global systemic shock associated with the outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 to assess the risk-return relationship in the cross-section of real estate equities in the US and in selected Asian countries. I construct regional COVID-19 Risk Factors (CRFs) to assess how the risk exposure of stocks to the pandemic affects their performance. I find substantial differences between stocks in Asia and the US as a result of the pandemic. During the early stages of the pandemic, the sensitivity of Asian real estate companies to the market becomes negative, while it remains positive and increases in the US. Real estate sectors experience strong divergence in performance in the US while little sectoral difference is observed in Asia. The most affected sectors in the US are retail and hotels, while in Asia it is office. A Fama-MacBeth regression shows evidence for a low-risk effect during the COVID period: while insignificant prior to the pandemic, the return-risk relationship becomes significantly negative during the COVID period, with valuation effects driving the results in both regions. Firms in the US perform significantly worse if their exposure to the pandemic is higher, which is not the case in Asia. The results point towards strong divergence of expectations between US and Asian real estate companies in the onset of Covid-19, which may be associated with the level of prior experience to similar pandemics.
Keywords: Low-risk effect, coronavirus, COVID-19 risk factor, pandemic, financial constraints, behavioral effects, factor model, cross-section of returns, commercial real estate, REITs, systemic risk, idiosyncratic volatility
JEL Classification: G1, G14, I1, D84, R30
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