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Essays on Empirical Asset Pricing

Dongyoup Lee, 2012
Faculty Advisor: Jialin Yu
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My dissertation aims at understanding the dynamics of asset prices empirically. It contains three chapters.

Chapter One provides an estimator for the conditional expectation function using a partially misspecified model. The estimator automatically detects the dimensions along which the model quality is good (poor). The estimator is always consistent, and its rate of convergence improves toward the parametric rate as the model quality improves. These properties are confirmed by both simulation and empirical application. Application to the pricing of Treasury options suggests that the cheapest-to-deliver practice is an important source of misspecification.

Chapter Two examines the informational content of credit default swap (CDS) net notional for future stock and CDS prices. Using the information on CDS contracts registered in DTCC, a clearinghouse, I construct CDS-to-debt ratios from net notional, that is, the sum of net positive positions of all market participants, and total outstanding debt issued by the reference entity. Unlike the ratio using the sum of all outstanding CDS contracts, this ratio directly indicates how much of debt is insured with CDS and therefore, is a natural measure of investors concern on a credit event of the reference entity. Empirically, I find cross-sectional evidence that the current increase in CDS-to-debt ratios can predict a decrease in stock prices and an increase in CDS premia of the reference firms in the next week. Greater predictability for firms with investment grade credit ratings or low CDS-to-debt ratios suggests that investors pay more attention to firms in good credit conditions than those regarded as junk or already insured considerably with CDS.

Chapter Three tests the relationship between credit default swap net notional and put option prices. Given motivation that both CDS and put options are used not only as a type of insurance but also for negative side bets, both contemporaneous and predictive analysis are performed for put option returns and changes in implied volatilities with time-to-maturities of 1, 3, and 6 months. The results show that there is no empirical evidence that CDS net notional and put option prices are closely connected.

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