We investigate the determinants of international stock market co-movements, shedding light on the relevance of politics-related factors. We propose a new characterization for the link connecting politics and financial markets, disentangling two different components: political risk and economic policy risk. We uncover the surprisingly low correlation between the two variables, and show they are priced differently by the market.
We implement a pairs trading strategy, in the spirit of Gatev et al. (2006), which loads on international stock market comovements. Exclusively relying on hard macro-data proves not to be sufficient to explain the statistically significant and economically large returns generated by the strategy. We show how to increase the abnormal returns (alphas) generated by the strategy by exploiting shorter-time comovements. We document the utmost relevance of political risk, which explains and predicts returns driven by both short-term and long-run correlations. Our analysis also unveils the relevance of confidence factors, especially foreign investors’ confidence, which should therefore be accounted for when assessing the co-variation of international stock market prices.