“Idiosyncratic Risk, Costly Arbitrage, and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns” by Jie CAO
The University of Texas at Austin
This paper examines the impact of idiosyncratic risk on the cross-section of weekly stock returns from 1963 to 2006. I use an exponential GARCH model to forecast expected idiosyncratic volatility and employ a combination of the size effect, value premium, return momentum and short-term reversal to measure relative mispricing. I find that stock returns monotonically increase in idiosyncratic risk for relatively undervalued stocks and monotonically decrease in idiosyncratic risk for relatively overvalued stocks. This phenomenon is robust to various subsamples and industries, and cannot be explained by risk factors or firm characteristics. Further, transaction costs, short-sale constraints and information uncertainty cannot account for the role of idiosyncratic risk. Overall, these findings are consistent with the limits of arbitrage arguments and demonstrate the importance of idiosyncratic risk as an arbitrage cost.