May 8, 2008
We study the dynamics and cross-sectional properties of the variance risk premia embedded in options on stocks and indices, approximated by the synthetic variance swap returns. Several important stylized facts and contributions arise. First, variance risk premia for indices are systematically larger (more negative) than for individual securities. Second, there are systematic cross-sectional differences in the price of variance in individual stocks. Linking variance swaps to firm size/book-to-market, and stock turnover characteristics, an investor gains access to several lucrative long-short strategies with Sharpe Ratios around 2.