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Stock returns over the FOMC cycle

Annette Vissing-Jorgensen, Adair Morse and Anna Cieslak
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Annette Vissing-Jorgensen: University of California at Berkeley
Adair Morse: University of California at Berkeley
Anna Cieslak: Northwestern University

No 1197, 2015 Meeting Papers from Society for Economic Dynamics

Abstract: We document that since 1994 the US equity premium follows an alternating weekly pattern measured in FOMC cycle time, i.e. in time since the last Federal Open Market Committee meeting. The equity premium is earned entirely in weeks 0, 2, 4 and 6 in FOMC cycle time (with week 0 starting the day before a scheduled FOMC announcement day). We show that this pattern is likely to reflect a risk premium for news (about monetary policy or the macro economy) coming from the Federal Reserve: (1) The FOMC calendar is quite irregular and changes across sub-periods over which our finding is robust. (2) Even weeks in FOMC cycle time do not line up with other macro releases. (3) Volatility in the fed funds futures market and the federal funds market (but not to the same extent in other markets) peaks during even weeks in FOMC cycle time. (4) Information processing/decision making within the Fed tends to happen bi-weekly in FOMC cycle time: Before 1994, when changes to the Fed funds target in between meetings were common, they disproportionately took place during even weeks in FOMC cycle time. In addition, after 2001 Board of Governors discount rate meetings (at which the board aggregates policy requests from regional federal reserve banks and receives staff briefings) tend to take place bi-weekly in FOMC cycle time. As for how the information gets from the Federal Reserve to the market, we rule out the Federal Reserve signaling policy via open market operations post-1994. Furthermore, the high return weeks do not systematically line up with official information releases from the Federal Reserve or with the frequency of speeches by Fed officials. We end with a discussion of quiet policy communications and unintended information flows.

New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-fmk, nep-ifn and nep-mon
Date: 2015
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