The Informational Role of Asset Prices: The Case of Implied Volatility
Boston University - Department of Finance & Economics
Robert C. Merton
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Sloan School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Harvard Business School - Finance Unit
Working Paper 95-063
An important function of the financial system is to serve as a key source of information that helps coordinate decentralized decision-making in various sectors of the economy. Households and investors use interest rates, futures prices and security prices in making their consumption-saving decisions and portfolio allocation decisions. Interest rates and prices provide important signals to managers of firms in their selection of investment projects and financings.This paper illustrates the role played by financial markets in providing information about the future volatility-that is, the degree of uncertainty-of economic variables such as interest rates, exchange rates, commodity prices, and stock, bond and other security prices. It has two basic goals: (1) to show the importance of volatility for all sorts of policy decisions in the private and public sectors of the economy; and (2) to show how ex ante estimates of future volatility can be extracted from the prices of securities.
JEL Classification: G12, G14
Date posted: August 25, 1998