Working Papers

2008-25 | November 2008

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When Bonds Matter: Home Bias in Goods and Assets

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Recent models of international equity portfolios exhibit two potential weaknesses: (1) the structure of equilibrium equity portfolios is determined by the correlation of equity returns with real exchange rates, yet empirically equities don't appear to be a good hedge against real exchange rate risk; (2) Equity portfolios are highly sensitive to preference parameters. This paper solves both problems. It first shows that, in more general and realistic environments, the hedging of real exchange rate risks occurs through international bond holdings since relative bond returns are strongly correlated with real exchange rate fluctuations. Equilibrium equity positions are then optimally determined by the correlation of equity returns with the return on nonfinancial wealth, conditional on the bond returns. The model delivers equilibrium portfolios that are well-behaved as a function of the underlying preference parameters. We find reasonable empirical support for the theory for G-7 countries. We are able to explain short positions in domestic currency bonds for all G-7 countries, as well as significant levels of home equity bias for the U.S., Japan, and Canada.

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