Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Randall K. Filer

Subject Categories

Economics | Finance and Financial Management


asset volatility, financial crisis, Markov switching, options pricing, pricing kernels, risk preferences


This dissertation examines time-variation in asset volatility surrounding periods of financial market distress. In the first chapter we give a brief introduction of the overall theme of the project, and we outline the models used. The next chapters individually focus on the application of time-varying volatility to important themes in the literature. These include: the behavior of investor risk preferences across periods of stability and distress; inconsistencies in options pricing with regard to the behavior of the underlying asset; and the characterization of time-varying volatility dynamics in equity returns.

The second chapter of this dissertation examines the impact of changing asset volatility on the estimation of investor risk preferences. We ask whether prior findings of time-varying behavior for risk preferences may be due in part to a failure to account for changes in volatility. This is an important issue, because there is evidence in the existing literature that suggests a contributing role of risk preferences during periods of crisis and contagion. We use a regime-switching GARCH model for pricing kernel estimation to show that much of the variation in estimated investor risk preferences can be explained by changing volatility instead.

In the third chapter we examine stochastic volatility as an additional uncertainty factor regarding the future state of the market. We explore whether this inclusion affects prior findings of options pricing inconsistencies in the literature. Options mispricing is an important topic in debates concerning the role of investor sentiment in market behavior and asset pricing. Results from our investigation indicate that including this additional uncertainty factor does not fully explain away the inconsistencies. Our findings thus appear to support the existing evidence of options mispricing with respect to the behavior of the underlying asset.

In the fourth and final chapter of this dissertation, we examine asset volatility dynamics over a long historical time frame from 1871-2013. We demonstrate best fit for the number of distinct volatility regimes and characterize these separate dynamics. There is growing evidence that some economic relationships themselves may change between periods of high and low volatility - understanding changing volatility dynamics is crucial for understanding these economic relationships as well. We also show in this chapter how the estimated high-volatility state matches up with well-documented historical financial market events.