The course will deal with several alternative assets, with a focus on real estate, private equity, private debt, arts and other collectibles, hedge funds and private debt. Such alternative assets have several common characteristics, for example they are less liquid than traditional assets, less transparent, and more affected by agency problems. A number of interesting methodological issues arise, for example the construction and interpretation of proper indices, as well as the unsmoothing of return series based on appraisal rather than transaction values. In a portfolio context, they provide value not only for their expected returns, but also for the diversification benefit. A lot of interest has been devoted to alternative assets both by institutional investors and by policy-makers. Institutional investors rely on alternative assets in order to preserve expected returns and stabilize their portfolios at a time of zero or negative risk-free rates. Sometimes they ignore the problems associated with estimating expected returns and volatilities and correlations with other more standard asset classes. Policy-makers are interested in alternative assets because they see them as tools to foster the rate of economic growth. Private equity and venture capital are perceived as tools to provide risky capital to new firms that may prosper and create jobs. Private debt is a focal point especially in Europe, due to the crucial role of the banking sector in financing SMEs and the need to diversify by pushing non-bank credit institutions.
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