Empirically, co-skewness of asset returns seems to explain a substantial part of the cross-sectional variation of mean return not explained by beta. This finding is typically interpreted in terms of a risk averse representative investor with a cubic utility function. This paper questions this interpretation. We show that the empirical tests fail to impose risk aversion and the implied utility function takes an inverse S-shape. Unfortunately, the first-order conditions are not sufficient to guarantee that the market portfolio is the global maximum for this utility function, and our results suggest that the market portfolio is more likely to represent the global minimum. In addition, if we do impose risk aversion, then co-skewness has minimal explanatory power.

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doi.org/10.1016/j.jbankfin.2006.02.008, hdl.handle.net/1765/65842
Journal of Banking & Finance
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Post, G.T, van Vliet, P, & Levy, H. (2008). Risk aversion and skewness preference. Journal of Banking & Finance, 32(7), 1178–1187. doi:10.1016/j.jbankfin.2006.02.008