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Volatility, a measure of how much financial markets are fluctuating, has been near its record low in many asset classes. Over the last few decades, there have been only two other periods of similarly low volatility: in May 2013, and prior to the financial crisis in 2007. Is there anything we can learn from the recent period of low volatility versus what occurred slightly more than one year ago and seven years ago? Probably; the current volatility environment appears quite similar to the one in May 2013, but it’s substantially different from what happened prior to the financial crisis.
As we observed in our last post on the Continental Currency Crisis, the finances of the United States remained chaotic through the 1780s as the young government moved to establish its credit. U.S. Congress was finally given the power of taxation in 1787 and, in 1789, Alexander Hamilton was appointed as the first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton moved quickly to begin paying off war debts and to establish a national bank—the Bank of the United States. But in 1791, a burst of financial speculation in subscription rights to shares in the new bank caused a tangential rally and fall in public debt securities prices. In this edition of Crisis Chronicles, we describe how Hamilton invented central bank crisis management techniques eight decades before Walter Bagehot described them in Lombard Street.
Stock market circuit breakers halt trading activity on a single stock or an entire exchange if a sudden large price move occurs. Their purpose is to forestall cascading trading activity caused by gaps in liquidity or order errors. Whether circuit breakers achieve this goal is contentious. This post adds to the debate by analyzing intraday price formation on the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) on May 23, 2013—the pinnacle of this past year’s volatility in Japanese stock markets. While no circuit breakers were triggered on the TSE, we focus on trading conditions before and after the daily lunch break, which halted trading amid heightened market volatility on that day. The data seem to indicate that the break did not stem price volatility; rather, its anticipation may have worsened trading conditions.
We surveyed banks, we combed the academic literature, we asked economists at central banks. It turns out that most of their models predict that we will enjoy historically high excess returns for the S&P 500 for the next five years. But how do they reach this conclusion? Why is it that the equity premium is so high? And more importantly: Can we trust their models?
For many years, economists have struggled to explain the “equity premium puzzle”—the fact that the average return on stocks is larger than what would be expected to compensate for their riskiness. In this post, which draws on our recent New York Fed staff report, we deepen the puzzle further. We show that since 1994, more than 80 percent of the equity premium on U.S. stocks has been earned over the twenty-four hours preceding scheduled Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcements (which occur only eight times a year)—a phenomenon we call the pre-FOMC announcement “drift.”
Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from economists working at the intersection of research and policy. The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Donald Morgan.
The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.
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