Research Scan: Pros, Cons of Hedging Weighed at Fed Forum

Article excerpt

With banks using increasingly complex instruments to hedge their investments, risk-management experts recently gathered in Miami for a Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta conference on derivatives and similar tools.

Robert A. Eisenbeis, the Atlanta Fed's research director, said he called the conference to explore why hedging has suddenly become so popular.

"The issue is important because in finance there is no obvious reason to worry about hedging," he said. "As long as shareholders can diversify their investments, there is no reason for them to care about hedging. These papers try to provide some insights into what might be motivating managers to hedge."

For copies of the four papers, call 404-521-8747.

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Researchers Douglas Breeden of Duke University and S. Viswanathan of the University of Pennsylvania have found a theoretical reason why firms hedge. Past studies have questioned the need for corporations to hedge, arguing that investors may diversify their investments more efficiently than corporations can hedge.

But the researchers argue that managers who hedge successfully signal to the market that they truly understand their business. The market can then reward these companies with higher stock prices.

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Derivatives can do more than just hedge against financial risks. Sonku Kim of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Sheridan Titman of the University of Texas write that firms can use derivatives to help manage personnel.

Derivatives significantly reduce fluctuations in income from foreign exchange and interest rate swings, they said. This means managers may use derivatives to manipulate the financial results of their business units. …