Date of Award

2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Economics

First Advisor

Amir Yaron

Abstract

This dissertation studies topics in macro-finance with a focus on economic uncertainty.

The first chapter (Government Debt and Risk Premia) studies the implications of government debt for asset prices. I document a set of new facts that government debt is related to risk premia in various asset markets. First, the debt-to-GDP ratio positively predicts excess stock returns. The forecast power is compelling, and it outperforms many popular predictors. Second, higher debt-to-GDP ratio is correlated with higher credit risk premia in both corporate bond excess returns and yield spreads. Third, higher debt-to-GDP ratio is associated with lower real risk-free rate. Fourth, higher debt-to-GDP ratio predicts lower average returns on government debt. Expected return variation contributes to a sizable amount of the volatility of the debt-to-GDP ratio. Fifth, debt-to-GDP ratio positively comoves with fiscal policy uncertainty. Fiscal uncertainty also has direct effects on the asset prices consistent with the effect of debt-to-GDP ratio. I rationalize these empirical findings in a general equilibrium model featuring recursive preferences, endogenous growth, and time-varying fiscal uncertainty. In the model, the tax risk premium is sizable and its time variation is driven by fiscal uncertainty. Furthermore, the model generates an endogenous positive relationship between the debt-to-GDP ratio and fiscal uncertainty: fiscal uncertainty increases debt valuation through discount rate channel whereas higher debt conversely raises uncertainty in future fiscal consolidations.

In the second chapter (Volatility Risk Pass-Through), we estimate and explain the international transmission of output volatility shocks to both currencies and international quantity dynamics. We produce novel empirical evidence on the relevance of output volatility (vol) shocks for both currency and international quantity dynamics. Focusing on G-17 countries, we document several facts: (1) consumption and output vols are imperfectly correlated within countries; (2) across countries, consumption vol is more correlated than output vol; (3) the pass-through of relative output vol shocks onto relative consumption vol is moderate, especially if the uncertainty shocks originate from small countries; and (4) consumption differentials vol and exchange rate vol are disconnected, in contrast to the perfect correlation implied by a model of perfect risk-sharing with time-additive preferences. We rationalize these findings in a frictionless model with multiple goods and recursive preferences featuring a novel-and-rich risk-sharing of vol shocks.

The third chapter (Volatility, Intermediaries, and Exchange Rates) studies how financial market volatility drives exchange rates through the risk management practice of financial intermediaries. We build a model in which the major participants in the international financial market are levered intermediaries subject to Value-at-Risk constraints. Higher portfolio volatility translates into tighter funding conditions and increased marginal value of wealth. Thus, foreign currency is expected to appreciate. Our model can resolve the Backus-Smith puzzle, the forward premium puzzle, and the exchange rate volatility puzzle quantitatively. Our empirical test verifies two implications of the model that both financial market volatility and funding condition measurement have predictive power on exchange rates.

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