Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Damodaran on the Equity Risk Premium

The Equity Risk Premium is one of the central concepts of finance theory and practice. However, when we teach it in class (usually as part of the CAPM), we tend to do a lot of hand-waving and tell students to use historical ERPs. Aswath Damodaran of New York University has an excellent piece on SSRN titled "Equity Risk Premiums: Determinants, Estimation, and Implications" that's a must-read whether you're a professor, student, or practitioner. Here's the abstract:
Equity risk premiums are a central component of every risk and return model in finance and are a key input into estimating costs of equity and capital in both corporate finance and valuation. Given their importance, it is surprising how haphazard the estimation of equity risk premiums remains in practice. In the standard approach to estimating equity risk premiums, historical returns are used, with the difference in annual returns on stocks versus bonds over a long time period comprising the expected risk premium. We note the limitations of this approach, even in markets like the United States, which have long periods of historical data available, and its complete failure in emerging markets, where the historical data tends to be limited and volatile. We look at two other approaches to estimating equity risk premiums - the survey approach, where investors and managers are asked to assess the risk premium and the implied approach, where a forward-looking estimate of the premium is estimated using either current equity prices or risk premiums in non-equity markets. We close the paper by examining why different approaches yield different values for the equity risk premium, and how to choose the "right" number to use in analysis. (In an addendum, we also look at equity risk premiums during the market crisis, starting on September 12, 2008 through October 16, 2008.)
Read the whole thing here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'd Eat That

I just stopped by my favorite (on campus) coffee, bagel, and sandwich shoppe - I'm spending the afternoon grading exams that are due back tomorrow (groan).

Their latest sandwich offering is a Veggie Burger with Tomato, Onion, Provolone cheese, and Bacon. That's right - a veggie burger with bacon - probably the only way I'd eat one of those. Actually, it sounds pretty good. Bacon improves just about everything.

Talking With Practitioners

Unknown University recently had a function where they brought back a number of prominent alumni to talk about various topics. At dinner after the function, I ended up at a table with an MD from a major investment bank who manages about 10Billion overall in both traditional funds and alternative investments in the market where I'm currently doing some research. It was not by chance - I offered to lead a session that he was the main speacker for, and asked to be put at his table afterward.

So, at dinner (in between him checking his Blackberry every few minutes (dan - that is distracting), I got a chance to see whether my story about what I saw in my data passed the "sniff test" from someone who works in that market on a daily basis. Luckily, it did. Having topped that bar, we started talking about what sorts of things his firm has done in terms of research on the particular topic. So, it looks like I made a connection that could result in my getting some pretty scarce data in exchange for doing some research for the guy. It's a win-win - he gets some relatively low-cost access to eggheads, and I and my coauthor get some scarce data and access to people who can tell us far more about the markets involved than we could learn from academic articles and textbooks.

So, the bottom line is - If you're an academic who works on related topics, talk to practitioners. It's good for you.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Best Headline Ever

I'm a big fan of satire. But sometimes reality comes out with something that's far funnier and more bizarre than anything I could have come up with (even during the 70s, which were very, very interesting). Here's a newspaper headline that I just can't get out of my mind:

One gay man, two lesbians, a three-legged cat and a poisoned curry plot.

From the Mail Online. Hey - brit tabloids just do this stuff better than us.

Occam's Razor vs. Occam's Professor

I try not to be Occam's Professor - unless it's the right thing to do.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Williamson and Ostrom Win Nobel In Economics

The announcement just came in - The Nobel Prize in Economics (actually the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, to be precise) was awarded jointly to Elinor Ostrom (for her work on usage of common goods) and to Oliver Williamson (for his work on business as means of mitigating transactions costs). While I'm familiar with Williamson's work, I'm not with Ostrom's - so it looks like some reading is in order..
Click here for a list of past laureates.
In somewhat surprising related news, Obama was not awarded the prize (neither was Michael Moore or Timothy Geithner).

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize

When I read this morning that Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, I first thought it was a joke. Then, when I found out that it was real, I realized it was still a joke. Unfortunately, it was one that the prize committee played on themselves. They've definitely beclowned themselves - if I were to guess why they gave it to Obama, I'd have to say "Because he's not Bush").

I know, I know - this isn't a political blog (it's supposed to be about finance, or at least about being a finance professor). But some things cry out for comment.

Since it's Friday at 5:00, I guess it's time to call it a day. If the weather holds out, I'm trying a 100 kilometer ride tomorrow. Should be interesting - the course is not as hilly as the last ride. But, it might rain, in which case I'll stay home.

update: a reader just informed me that nominations had to be in by February 1st. So that means that Obama was nominated after eleven days in office.

update 2: From Greg Mankiw: "First Year Grad Student Wins Nobel Prize In Economics"

update3: From the Wall Street Journal: "Our own reaction is bemusement at the Norwegian decision to offer what amounts to the world's first futures prize in diplomacy, with the Nobel Committee anticipating the heroic concessions that it believes Mr. Obama will make to secure treaties that will produce a new era of global serenity."

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Christian Finance Faculty Association

Robert Brooks is a finance professor at the University of Alabama. He's trying to get a new organization (the Christian Finance Faculty Association) off the ground. Since it's a worthwhile endeavor (and one I'd be a part of if I were going), I thought I'd post some information about it.

Professor Brooks has scheduled an organizational meeting at the upcoming Financial Management Association meeting in Reno in a few weeks. Rather than retype everything, I'll just pass along the info that was forwarded to me (efficient AND lazy- now there's a combination. Unfortunately, I don't have the looks to go with it.)
The purpose of this email is to announce the formation of The Christian Finance Faculty Association. The first formal meeting will be held at the Nugget Hotel in Reno (Lake Tahoe) during the FMA meeting this year. The meeting will be held in the Alpine Room on Friday, October 23, 2009 from 7:00 to 9:00 AM.

The following are information items related to this association:
  1. Volunteers are needed and welcomed. Direct any questions, comments, to Robert Brooks at rbrooks@TheCFFA.org.
  2. Information about this emerging organization can be found at www.TheCFFA.org (hopefully the site will be improved shortly). The web site will be the primary means of communicating about the activities and opportunities within CFFA.
  3. As this organization is in its early formative stage, you have an opportunity to influence its overall objectives and focus. Your feedback and insights are needed.
  4. If you wish to be added to our email distribution list, please send an email to rbrooks@TheCFFA.org and indicatyour willingness to be included. The email list will be private and only blind copies will be mass distributed in the same manner as this email. The email list will be limited to CFFA announcements. We may eventually create a blog for more interactive and frequent contributions.
  5. Please forward this email to anyone you believe may have an interest in this organization.
Unfortunately, I won't be there in Reno. But if you will be and you're interested, check it out.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Nash Meets Feynman

Those of you who haven't seen "A Beautiful Mind" might not get it. Butif you have (or if you know Nash's work), it's funny.

In case you didn't know, in addition to Richard Feynman being a Nobel-prize winning physicist, also found the Feynman-Kac solution to the third-order partial differential solution that Black and Scholes used in their option-pricing formula. So, he's actually about a Nobel-Prize winner and maybe a quarter (once on his own, and once for being useful to B&S.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Funny Economist

It turns our Austan Goolsbee (U of Chicago Economics prof and member of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisors) is a pretty funny guy.

From what I recall, I'd gotten a couple of emails from him a while back (when he was just a normal mortal) regarding possible things to blog on. Of course, that could be just the Alzheimer's talking.

Regardless, he's a pretty funny guy - decent material (not fantastic, but he IS an Economics Prof, after all) and interesting delivery.

Now that I've mention you Austin - about MY stimulus package...