How Important is Financial Risk?

Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, 2015
   with Söhnke Bartram and Gregory W. Brown

- 2012 European Finance Association Annual Meeting
- 2009 Financial Intermediation Research Society Conference
- 2009 American Finance Association Annual Meeting

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We explore the determinants of equity price risk of non-financial corporations. Operating and asset characteristics are by far the most important determinants of risk. For the median firm, financial risk accounts for only 15% of observed stock price volatility. Furthermore, financial risk has declined over the last three decades indicating that any upward trend in equity volatility was driven entirely by economic risk factors. This explains why financial distress (as opposed to economic distress) was surprisingly uncommon in the nonfinancial sector during the recent crisis even as measures of equity volatility reached unprecedented highs.

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