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- Foundations of continuous-time recursive utility : differentiability and normalization of certainty equivalents (2009)
- This paper relates recursive utility in continuous time to its discrete-time origins and provides a rigorous and intuitive alternative to a heuristic approach presented in [Duffie, Epstein 1992], who formally define recursive utility in continuous time via backward stochastic differential equations (stochastic differential utility). Furthermore, we show that the notion of Gâteaux differentiability of certainty equivalents used in their paper has to be replaced by a different concept. Our approach allows us to address the important issue of normalization of aggregators in non-Brownian settings. We show that normalization is always feasible if the certainty equivalent of the aggregator is of expected utility type. Conversely, we prove that in general L´evy frameworks this is essentially also necessary, i.e. aggregators that are not of expected utility type cannot be normalized in general. Besides, for these settings we clarify the relationship of our approach to stochastic differential utility and, finally, establish dynamic programming results. JEL Classifications: D81, D91, C61

- Optimal housing, consumption, and investment decisions over the life-cycle (2009)
- We provide explicit solutions to life-cycle utility maximization problems simultaneously involving dynamic decisions on investments in stocks and bonds, consumption of perishable goods, and the rental and the ownership of residential real estate. House prices, stock prices, interest rates, and the labor income of the decision-maker follow correlated stochastic processes. The preferences of the individual are of the Epstein-Zin recursive structure and depend on consumption of both perishable goods and housing services. The explicit consumption and investment strategies are simple and intuitive and are thoroughly discussed and illustrated in the paper. For a calibrated version of the model we find, among other things, that the fairly high correlation between labor income and house prices imply much larger life-cycle variations in the desired exposure to house price risks than in the exposure to the stock and bond markets. We demonstrate that the derived closed-form strategies are still very useful if the housing positions are only reset infrequently and if the investor is restricted from borrowing against future income. Our results suggest that markets for REITs or other financial contracts facilitating the hedging of house price risks will lead to non-negligible but moderate improvements of welfare. JEL-Classification: G11, D14, D91, C6

- What is the impact of stock market contagion on an investor's portfolio choice? (2009)
- Stocks are exposed to the risk of sudden downward jumps. Additionally, a crash in one stock (or index) can increase the risk of crashes in other stocks (or indices). Our paper explicitly takes this contagion risk into account and studies its impact on the portfolio decision of a CRRA investor both in complete and in incomplete market settings. We find that the investor significantly adjusts his portfolio when contagion is more likely to occur. Capturing the time dimension of contagion, i.e. the time span between jumps in two stocks or stock indices, is thus of first-order importance when analyzing portfolio decisions. Investors ignoring contagion completely or accounting for contagion while ignoring its time dimension suffer large and economically significant utility losses. These losses are larger in complete than in incomplete markets, and the investor might be better off if he does not trade derivatives. Furthermore, we emphasize that the risk of contagion has a crucial impact on investors' security demands, since it reduces their ability to diversify their portfolios. JEL-Classification: G12, G13

- Investment, income, incompleteness (2009)
- The utility-maximizing consumption and investment strategy of an individual investor receiving an unspanned labor income stream seems impossible to find in closed form and very dificult to find using numerical solution techniques. We suggest an easy procedure for finding a specific, simple, and admissible consumption and investment strategy, which is near-optimal in the sense that the wealthequivalent loss compared to the unknown optimal strategy is very small. We first explain and implement the strategy in a simple setting with constant interest rates, a single risky asset, and an exogenously given income stream, but we also show that the success of the strategy is robust to changes in parameter values, to the introduction of stochastic interest rates, and to endogenous labor supply decisions. JEL-Classification: G11

- Growth options and firm valuation (2013)
- This paper studies the relation between firm value and a firm's growth options. We find strong empirical evidence that (average) Tobin's Q increases with firm-level volatility. However, the significance mainly comes from R&D firms, which have more growth options than non-R&D firms. By decomposing firm-level volatility into its systematic and unsystematic part, we also document that only idiosyncratic volatility (ivol) has a significant effect on valuation. Second, we analyze the relation of stock returns to realized contemporaneous idiosyncratic volatility and R&D expenses. Single sorting according to the size of idiosyncratic volatility, we only find a significant ivol anomaly for non-R&D portfolios, whereas in a four-factor model the portfolio alphas of R&D portfolios are all positive. Double sorting on idiosyncratic volatility and R&D expenses also reveals these differences between R&D and non-R&D firms. To simultaneously control for several explanatory variables, we also run panel regressions of portfolio alphas which confirm the relative importance of idiosyncratic volatility that is amplified by R&D expenses.

- How does contagion affect general equilibrium asset prices? : [Version: March 13, 2013] (2013)
- This paper analyzes the equilibrium pricing implications of contagion risk in a Lucas-tree economy with recursive preferences and jumps. We introduce a new economic channel allowing for the possibility that endowment shocks simultaneously trigger a regime shift to a bad economic state. We document that these contagious jumps have far-reaching asset pricing implications. The risk premium for such shocks is superadditive, i.e. it is 2.5\% larger than the sum of the risk premia for pure endowment shocks and regime switches. Moreover, contagion risk reduces the risk-free rate by around 0.5\%. We also derive semiclosed-form solutions for the wealth-consumption ratio and the price-dividend ratios in an economy with two Lucas trees and analyze cross-sectional effects of contagion risk qualitatively. We find that heterogeneity among the assets with respect to contagion risk can increase risk premia disproportionately. In particular, big assets with a large exposure to contagious shocks carry significantly higher risk premia.

- Pricing two trees when mildew infests the orchard: how does contagion affect general equilibrium asset prices : [version: March 11, 2011) (2011)
- This paper analyzes the equilibrium pricing implications of contagion risk in a two-tree Lucas economy with CRRA preferences. The dividends of both trees are subject to downward jumps. Some of these jumps are contagious and increase the risk of subsequent jumps in both trees for some time interval. We show that contagion risk leads to large price-dividend ratios for small assets, a joint movement of prices in the case of a regime change from the calm to the contagion state, significantly positive correlations between assets, and large positive betas for small assets. Whereas disparities between the assets with respect to their propensity to trigger contagion barely matter for pricing, the prices of robust assets that are hardly affected by contagion and excitable assets that are severely hit by contagion differ significantly. Both in absolute terms and relatively to the market, the price of a small safe haven increases if the economy reaches the contagion state. On the contrary, the price of a small, contagion-sensitive asset exhibits a pronounced downward jump.

- Life insurance demand under health shock risk : [Version: 7 February 2014] (2014)
- This paper studies the life cycle consumption-investment-insurance problem of a family. The wage earner faces the risk of a health shock that significantly increases his probability of dying. The family can buy term life insurance with realistic features. In particular, the available contracts are long term so that decisions are sticky and can only be revised at significant costs. Furthermore, a revision is only possible as long as the insured person is healthy. A second important and realistic feature of our model is that the labor income of the wage earner is unspanned. We document that the combination of unspanned labor income and the stickiness of insurance decisions reduces the insurance demand significantly. This is because an income shock induces the need to reduce the insurance coverage, since premia become less affordable. Since such a reduction is costly and families anticipate these potential costs, they buy less protection at all ages. In particular, young families stay away from life insurance markets altogether.

- Consumption habits and humps : [Version 23 June 2013] (2013)
- We show that the optimal consumption of an individual over the life cycle can have the hump shape (inverted U-shape) observed empirically if the preferences of the individual exhibit internal habit formation. In the absence of habit formation, an impatient individual would prefer a decreasing consumption path over life. However, because of habit formation, a high initial consumption would lead to high required consumption in the future. To cover the future required consumption, wealth is set aside, but the necessary amount decreases with age which allows consumption to increase in the early part of life. At some age, the impatience outweighs the habit concerns so that consumption starts to decrease. We derive the optimal consumption strategy in closed form, deduce sufficient conditions for the presence of a consumption hump, and characterize the age at which the hump occurs. Numerical examples illustrate our findings. We show that our model calibrates well to U.S. consumption data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey.

- When do jumps matter for portfolio optimization? : [Version 29 April 2013] (2013)
- We consider the continuous-time portfolio optimization problem of an investor with constant relative risk aversion who maximizes expected utility of terminal wealth. The risky asset follows a jump-diffusion model with a diffusion state variable. We propose an approximation method that replaces the jumps by a diffusion and solve the resulting problem analytically. Furthermore, we provide explicit bounds on the true optimal strategy and the relative wealth equivalent loss that do not rely on results from the true model. We apply our method to a calibrated affine model and fine that relative wealth equivalent losses are below 1.16% if the jump size is stochastic and below 1% if the jump size is constant and γ ≥ 5. We perform robustness checks for various levels of risk-aversion, expected jump size, and jump intensity.