DP11401 | Nonlinearity and Flight-to-Safety in the Risk-Return Tradeoff for Stocks and Bonds

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We document a highly significant, strongly nonlinear dependence of stock and bond returns on past equity market volatility as measured by the VIX. We propose a new estimator for the shape of the nonlinear forecasting relationship that exploits additional variation in the cross-section of returns. The nonlinearities are mirror images for stocks and bonds, revealing flight-to-safety: expected returns increase for stocks when volatility increases from moderate to high levels while they decline for Treasuries. These findings provide support for dynamic asset pricing theories where the price of risk is a nonlinear function of market volatility.