February 27, 2015
We propose a new decomposition of the variance risk premium in terms of upside and downside variance risk premia. The difference between upside and downside variance risk premia is a measure of skewness risk premium. We establish that the downside variance risk premium is the main component of the variance risk premium, and that the skewness risk premium is a priced factor with significant prediction power for aggregate excess returns. Our empirical investigation highlights the positive and significant link between the downside variance risk premium and the equity premium, as well as a positive and significant relation between the skewness risk premium and the equity premium.