Blitz, David, Pim van Vliet, and Guido Baltussen. “The Volatility Effect Revisited.” (2019)

Abstract

High-risk stocks do not have higher returns than low-risk stocks in all major stock markets. This paper provides a comprehensive overview of this low-risk effect, from the earliest asset pricing studies in the nineteen seventies to the most recent empirical findings and interpretations since. Volatility appears to be the main driver of the anomaly, which is highly persistent over time and across markets, and which cannot be explained by other factors such as value, profitability, or exposure to interest rate changes. From a practical perspective we argue that low-risk investing requires little turnover, that volatilities are more important than correlations, that low-risk indices are suboptimal and vulnerable to overcrowding, and that other factors can be efficiently integrated into a low-risk strategy. Finally, we find little evidence that the low-risk effect is being arbitraged away, as many investors are either neutrally positioned, or even on the other side of the low-risk trade.