Summary In this paper, we study marginal and conditional skewness in financial returns for nine time series of major international stock indices. For this purpose, we develop a new variant of the GARCH model with dynamic skewness and kurtosis. Our empirical results indicate that there is no evidence of marginal asymmetry in the nine time series under consideration. We do however find significant time-varying conditional skewness. The economic significance of conditional skewness is analysed in terms of Value-at-Risk measures and Market Risk Capital Requirements set by the Basel Accord.