The Perils of Parity
May 18, 2010
This paper examines the recent trend of adding leverage to fixed income allocations of multi-asset class portfolios of large asset owners. We show that the optimality of adding leverage from a volatility-reduction perspective depends on the correlations between bonds and equities, the relative volatility of bonds versus equities, and the weights of the two asset classes in the portfolio. If correlations between bonds and equities are negative, adding leverage could reduce the volatility of a portfolio, especially if the weight in fixed income assets is low, leverage is moderate, and bonds have a low risk relative to equities. Negative correlations also increase the likelihood that adding leverage will improve the risk-return profile of the portfolio. Asset owners considering adding leverage to their fixed income allocation can examine these influences to decide whether negative correlations between bonds and equities, a low ratio of bond to equity volatility, and higher risk-adjusted returns of bonds relative to equities are likely to persist.