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- A dynamic programming approach to constrained portfolios (2012)
- This paper studies constrained portfolio problems that may involve constraints on the probability or the expected size of a shortfall of wealth or consumption. Our first contribution is that we solve the problems by dynamic programming, which is in contrast to the existing literature that applies the martingale method. More precisely, we construct the non-separable value function by formalizing the optimal constrained terminal wealth to be a (conjectured) contingent claim on the optimal non-constrained terminal wealth. This is relevant by itself, but also opens up the opportunity to derive new solutions to constrained problems. As a second contribution, we thus derive new results for non-strict constraints on the shortfall of inter¬mediate wealth and/or consumption.

- 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

- Stochastic differential utility as the continuous-time limit of recursive utility (2013)
- We establish a convergence theorem that shows that discrete-time recursive utility, as developed by Kreps and Porteus (1978), converges to stochastic differential utility, as introduced by Dufffie and Epstein (1992), in the continuous-time limit of vanishing grid size.

- Asset pricing and consumption-portfolio choice with recursive utility and unspanned risk (2014)
- We study consumption-portfolio and asset pricing frameworks with recursive preferences and unspanned risk. We show that in both cases, portfolio choice and asset pricing, the value function of the investor/representative agent can be characterized by a specific semilinear partial differential equation. To date, the solution to this equation has mostly been approximated by Campbell-Shiller techniques, without addressing general issues of existence and uniqueness. We develop a novel approach that rigorously constructs the solution by a fixed point argument. We prove that under regularity conditions a solution exists and establish a fast and accurate numerical method to solve consumption-portfolio and asset pricing problems with recursive preferences and unspanned risk. Our setting is not restricted to affine asset price dynamics. Numerical examples illustrate our approach.

- 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.

- Systemic risk in the financial sector: what can we learn from option markets? (2013)
- In this paper, we propose a novel approach on how to estimate systemic risk and identify its key determinants. For all US financial companies with publicly traded equity options, we extract their option-implied value-at-risks (VaRs) and measure the spillover effects between individual company VaRs and the option-implied VaR of an US financial index. First, we study the spillover effect of increasing company risks on the financial sector. Second, we analyze which companies are most affected if the tail risk of the financial sector increases. We find that key accounting and market valuation metrics such as size, leverage, balance sheet composition, market-to-book ratio and earnings have a significant influence on the systemic risk profile of a financial institution. In contrast to earlier studies, the employed panel vector autoregression (PVAR) estimator allows for a causal interpretation of the results.

- 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.

- Consumption and wage humps in a life-cycle model with education (2014)
- he observed hump-shaped life-cycle pattern in individuals' consumption cannot be explained by the classical consumption-savings model. We explicitly solve a model with utility of both consumption and leisure and with educational decisions affecting future wages. We show optimal consumption is hump shaped and determine the peak age. The hump results from consumption and leisure being substitutes and from the implicit price of leisure being decreasing over time; more leisure means less education, which lowers future wages, and the present value of foregone wages decreases with age. Consumption is hump shaped whether the wage is hump shaped or increasing over life.

- 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