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In Rememberance: World Trade Center (WTC)

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Have Individual Stocks Become More Volatile? An Empirical Exploration of Idiosyncratic Risk

by John Y. Campbell of Harvard University,
Martin Lettau of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,
Burton G. Malkiel of Princeton University, and
Yexiao Xu of the University of Texas

February 2001

Abstract: This paper uses a disaggregated approach to study the volatility of common stocks at the market, industry, and firm levels. Over the period from 1962 to 1997 there has been a noticeable increase in firm-level volatility relative to market volatility. Accordingly, correlations among individual stocks and the explanatory power of the market model for a typical stock have declined, whereas the number of stocks needed to achieve a given level of diversification has increased. All the volatility measures move together countercyclically and help to predict GDP growth. Market volatility tends to lead the other volatility series. Factors that may be responsible for these findings are suggested.

Published in: Journal of Finance, Vol. 56, No. 1, (February 2001), pp. 1-43.

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