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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Essays in empirical asset pricing Smith, Daniel Robert


This thesis consists of two essays which contribute to different but related aspects of the empirical asset pricing literature. The common theme is that incorrect restrictions can lead to inaccurate decisions. The first essay demonstrates that failure to account for the Federal Reserve experiment can lead to incorrect assumptions about the explosiveness of short-term interest rate volatility, while the second essay demonstrates that we need to incorporate skewness to develop models that adequately account for the cross-section of equity returns. Essay 1 empirically compares the Markov-switching and stochastic volatility diffusion models of the short rate. The evidence supports the Markov-switching diffusion model. Estimates of the elasticity of volatility parameter for single-regime models unanimously indicate an explosive volatility process, whereas the Markov-switching models estimates are reasonable. We find that either Markov-switching or stochastic volatility, but not both, is needed to adequately fit the data. A robust conclusion is that volatility depends on the level of the short rate. Finally, the Markov-switching model is the best for forecasting. A technical contribution of this paper is a presentation of quasi-maximum likelihood estimation techniques for the Markov-switching stochastic-volatility model. Essay 2 proposes a new approach to estimating and testing nonlinear pricing models using GMM. The methodology extends the GMM based conditional mean-variance asset pricing tests of Harvey (1989) and He et al (1996) to include preferences over moments higher than variance. In particular we explore the empirical usefulness of the conditional coskewness of an assets return with the market return in explaining the cross-section of equity returns. The methodology is both flexible and parsimonious. We avoid modelling any asset specific parameters and avoid making restrictive assumptions on the dynamics of co-moments. By using GMM to estimate the models' parameters we also avoid making any assumptions about the distribution of the data. The empirical results indicate that coskewness is useful in explaining the cross-section of equity returns, and that both covariance and coskewness are time varying. We also find that the usefulness of coskewness is robust to the inclusion of Fama and French's (1993) SMB and HML factor returns. There is an interesting debate raging in the empirical asset pricing literature comparing the SDF versus beta methodologies. This paper's technique is a conditional version of the beta methodology, which turns out to be directly comparable with the SDF methodology with only minor modifications. Our SDF version imposes the CAPM's restrictions that the coefficients in the pricing kernel are known functions of the moments of market returns, which are modelled using macro-variables. We find that the SDF implied by the three-moment CAPM provides a better fit in this data set than current practice of parameterizing the coefficients on market returns in the SDF. This has an interesting application to the current SDF versus beta methodology debate.

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