April 13, 2015
This paper shows theoretically and empirically that beta- and volatility-based low risk anomalies are driven by return skewness. The empirical patterns concisely match the predictions of our model that endogenizes the role of skewness for stock returns through default risk. With increasing downside risk, the standard capital asset pricing model (CAPM) increasingly overestimates expected equity returns relative to firms’ true (skew-adjusted) market risk. Empirically, the profitability of betting against beta/volatility increases with firms’ downside risk, and the risk-adjusted return differential of betting against beta/volatility among low skew firms compared to high skew firms is economically large.