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Abstract: Using only daily data on bond and stock returns, we identify and characterize flight to safety (FTS) episodes for 23 countries. On average, FTS days comprise less than 3% of the sample, and bond returns exceed equity returns by 2.5 to 4%. The majority of FTS events are country-specific not global. FTS episodes coincide with increases in the VIX and the Ted spread, decreases in consumer sentiment indicators and appreciations of the Yen, Swiss franc, and US dollar. The financial, basic materials and industrial industries under-perform in FTS episodes, but the telecom industry outperforms. Money market instruments, corporate bonds, and commodity prices (with the exception of metals, including gold) face abnormal negative returns in FTS episodes. Hedge funds, especially those belonging to the "event-driven" styles, display negative FTS betas, after controlling for standard risk factors. Liquidity deteriorates on FTS days both in the bond and equity markets. Both economic growth and inflation decline right after and up to a year following a FTS spell.

Keywords: Flight-to-safety, flight-to-quality, stock-bond return correlation, liquidity, hedge funds

Full paper (554 KB PDF)