Pairs trading and idiosyncratic cash flow risk

Binh Do*, Robert Faff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


We uncover idiosyncratic cash flow risk as a dominant driver for pairs trading performance. The convergence probability and pairs payoff are negatively associated with pairwise idiosyncratic cash flow volatility. Further, pairs portfolio returns load negatively on market-wide idiosyncratic cash flow volatility. This latter time-series evidence helps explain a substantial part of the decline in pairs trading profitability in the US equity market since the 1990s. Our results are consistent with idiosyncratic risk representing a major holding cost for arbitrageurs when substitutes are close but imperfect.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3171-3206
Number of pages36
JournalAccounting and Finance
Issue number2
Early online date27 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


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