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Disasters Implied by Equity Index Options





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    • Backus is from New York University and NBER, Chernov is from the London School of Economics and CEPR, and Martin is from Stanford University and NBER. We thank the many people who have given us advice, including David Bates, Michael Brandt, Rodrigo Guimaraes, Sydney Ludvigson, Monika Piazzesi, Thomas Sargent, Romeo Tedongap, Michael Woodford, and Liuren Wu, as well as participants in seminars at, and conferences sponsored by, the AEA, the Bank of England, Bocconi, CEPR (Gerzensee meetings), the Federal Reserve, Glasgow, Harvard, IDEI/SCOR (conference on extremal events), LBS, Leicester, LSE, Minnesota, MIT, Moscow HSE, NBER (summer institute), NYU, Penn, Princeton, RCEA Rimini (workshop on money and finance), SoFiE (conference on extreme events), SIFR, Toulouse (conference on financial econometrics), and UC Davis. We also thank Campbell Harvey, an associate editor, and a referee for helpful comments on earlier versions.


We use equity index options to quantify the distribution of consumption growth disasters. The challenge lies in connecting the risk-neutral distribution of equity returns implied by options to the true distribution of consumption growth. First, we compare pricing kernels constructed from macro-finance and option-pricing models. Second, we compare option prices derived from a macro-finance model to those we observe. Third, we compare the distribution of consumption growth derived from option prices using a macro-finance model to estimates based on macroeconomic data. All three perspectives suggest that options imply smaller probabilities of extreme outcomes than have been estimated from macroeconomic data.

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