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The Growth of Murky Finance
Building upon previous posts in this series that discussed individual banks, we examine the historical growth of the entire financial sector, relative to the rest of the economy. This sector’s historically large share of the economy today (see chart below) and its role in disrupting the functioning of the real economy during the recent financial crisis have led to questions about the social value of costly financial services. While new regulations such as the Dodd-Frank Act impose restrictions on financial activities and increase their costs, especially those of large firms, our paper ...
Components of U.S. financial sector growth, 1950-2013
The U.S. financial sector grew steadily as a share of the total business sector from 1959 until the recent financial crisis, when the trend reversed. In this article, the authors develop measures based on firm-level data to estimate the size of the financial sector and its subsectors relative to the total business (financial and nonfinancial) sector over time. The analysis further sheds light on how these size measures are affected by a firm?s choice of financing (whether public or private), firm size, industry type, use of leverage, and regulation. The authors find that the relative size of ...
Nonlinearity and flight to safety in the risk-return trade-off for stocks and bonds
We document a highly significant, strongly nonlinear dependence of stock and bond returns on past equity market volatility as measured by the VIX. We propose a new estimator for the shape of the nonlinear forecasting relationship that exploits additional variation in the cross section of returns. The nonlinearities are mirror images for stocks and bonds, revealing flight to safety: expected returns increase for stocks when volatility increases from moderate to high levels, while they decline for Treasury securities. These findings provide support for dynamic asset pricing theories where the ...
The Shift from Active to Passive Investing: Potential Risks to Financial Stability?
The past couple of decades have seen a significant shift in assets from active to passive investment strategies. We examine the potential effects of this shift on financial stability through four different channels: (1) effects on investment funds? liquidity transformation and redemption risks; (2) passive strategies that amplify market volatility; (3) increases in asset-management industry concentration; and (4) the effects on valuations, volatility, and comovement of assets that are included in indexes. Overall, the shift from active to passive investment strategies appears to be increasing ...