Luis M. Viceira

10 Results


Companies Detangle from Legacy Pensions

Although new defined benefit plans are rare, many firms must still fund commitments to retirees. Luis M. Viceira looks at the pension landscape and the recent emergence of insurance companies as potential saviors. Open for comment; 4 Comments posted.

Monetary Policy Drivers of Bond and Equity Risks

Given the importance of nominal bonds in investment portfolios, and in the design and execution of fiscal and monetary policy, financial economists and macroeconomists need to understand the determinants of nominal bond risks. This is particularly challenging because the risk characteristics of nominal bonds are not stable over time. In this paper the authors ask how monetary policy has contributed to these changes in bond risks. They propose a model that integrates the building blocks of a New Keynesian model into an asset pricing framework in which risk and consequently risk premia can vary in response to macroeconomic conditions. The model is calibrated to US data between 1960 and 2011, a period in which macroeconomic conditions, monetary policy, and bond risks have experienced significant changes. Findings show that two elements of monetary policy have been especially important drivers of bond risks during the last half century. First, a strong reaction of monetary policy to inflation shocks increases both the beta of nominal bonds and the volatility of nominal bond returns. Positive inflation shocks depress bond prices, while the increase in the Fed funds rate depresses output and stock prices. Second, an accommodating monetary policy that smooths nominal interest rates over time implies that positive shocks to long-term target inflation cause real interest rates to fall, driving up output and equity prices, and nominal long-term interest rates to increase, decreasing bond prices. The paper shows empirical evidence that the Fed monetary policy followed an anti-inflationary stance after 1979, but it has moved to a more accommodating, nominal interest rate smoothing policy since the mid 1990's. Consistent with the predictions of the model, the first period corresponds to a period of average positive Treasury-bond beta and stock-bond correlation, and the second period to a period of average negative bond beta and stock-bond correlation. Overall, results imply that it is particularly important to take account of changing risk premia. Read More

An Empirical Decomposition of Risk and Liquidity in Nominal and Inflation-Indexed Government Bonds

The yields on US Treasury Inflation Protected Securities (TIPS) have declined dramatically since they were first issued in 1997. This paper asks to what extent the returns on nominal and inflation-indexed bonds in both the US and the UK can be attributed to differential liquidity and market segmentation or to real interest rate risk and inflation risk. Read More

HBS Faculty Debate Financial Reform Legislation

Harvard Business School professors Robert Steven Kaplan, David A. Moss, Robert C. Pozen, Clayton S. Rose and Luis M. Viceira share their perspectives on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, slated to be signed this week by U.S. President Barack Obama. Read More

Inflation Bets or Deflation Hedges? The Changing Risks of Nominal Bonds

Are nominal government bonds risky investments that investors must be rewarded to hold? Or are they safe investments, whose price movements are either inconsequential or even beneficial to investors as hedges against other risks? U.S. Treasury bonds have performed well as hedges during the financial crisis of 2008, but the opposite was true in the late 1970's and early 1980's. John Y. Campbell, a Visiting Scholar at HBS, Harvard Ph.D. candidate Adi Sunderam, and HBS professor Luis M. Viceira explore such changes over time in the risks of nominal government bonds. Read More

Bond Risk, Bond Return Volatility, and the Term Structure of Interest Rates

This paper documents the existence of considerable variation over time in the covariance or correlation of Treasury bond returns with stock returns and with consumption growth. There are times in which bonds appear to be safe assets, while at other times they appear to be highly risky assets. The paper finds that time variation in bond risk is systematic and positively related to the level and the slope of the yield curve. These are factors that proxy for inflation and general economic uncertainty, inflation risk, and the risk premium on bonds. Read More

The Excess Burden of Government Indecision

Virtually all U.S. policymakers, budget analysts, and academic experts agree that the United States faces a very serious, if not a grave, long-term fiscal problem. Yet few policymakers will publicly say how or when they would fix it, perhaps because they fear being the bearer of bad news and getting voted out of office. Delaying the resolution of fiscal imbalances incurs two costs, however. First, it leaves a larger bill for a smaller number of people to pay. Second, and of primary interest to this research, it perpetuates uncertainty, leading economic agents to make suboptimal saving, investment, and other decisions, and reducing welfare. This research identifies and measures this "excess burden" of government indecision and finds that it is economically significant. Read More

Global Currency Hedging

This article is forthcoming in the Journal of Finance. How much should investors hedge the currency exposure implicit in their international portfolios? Using a long sample of foreign exchange rates, stock returns, and bond returns that spans the period between 1975 and 2005, this paper studies the correlation of currency excess returns with stock returns and bond returns. These correlations suggest the existence of a typology of currencies. First, the euro, the Swiss franc, and a portfolio simultaneously long U.S. dollars and short Canadian dollars are negatively correlated with world equity markets and in this sense are "safe" or "reserve" currencies. Second, the Japanese yen and the British pound appear to be only mildly correlated with global equity markets. Third, the currencies of commodity producing countries such as Australia and Canada are positively correlated with world equity markets. These results suggest that investors can minimize their equity risk by not hedging their exposure to reserve currencies, and by hedging or overhedging their exposure to all other currencies. The paper shows that such a currency hedging policy dominates other popular hedging policies such as no hedging, full hedging, or partial, uniform hedging across all currencies. All currencies are uncorrelated or only mildly correlated with bonds, suggesting that international bond investors should fully hedge their currency exposures. Read More

Optimal Value and Growth Tilts in Long-Horizon Portfolios

Long-term investors look for portfolio strategies that optimally trade off risk and reward, not in the immediate future, but over the long term. It is unrealistic to expect long-term investors to adopt an "invest and forget" strategy, but creating a portfolio strategy that adjusts asset allocations in response to changing risk premia, interest rates, and expected inflation remains a challenge in finance. Jurek and Viceira have devised a solution method that aims at a practical implementation of dynamic portfolio choice models with realistically complex investment opportunity sets. They have applied their method to study the role of value stocks and growth stocks in the portfolios of long-term investors, and have found that long-term investors might want to tilt their portfolios away from value stocks despite the fact that the average return on value stocks is larger than the average return on growth stocks (the so-called "value premium"). Their findings provide support for the idea that the superior performance of value stocks might reflect simply that they are riskier than growth stocks at long horizons. Read More

New Challenges for Long-Term Investors

Risk-reward. Rising interest rates. Stocks or bonds. The long-term investor has lots to ponder when setting asset allocation strategy, says HBS professor Luis M. Viceira. And the answers might not come with "conventional wisdom." Read More