Limits of Arbitrage

Posted: 12 Nov 2010

See all articles by Denis Gromb

Denis Gromb

HEC Paris

Dimitri Vayanos

London School of Economics; Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: December 2010


We survey theoretical developments in the literature on the limits of arbitrage. This literature investigates how costs faced by arbitrageurs can prevent them from eliminating mispricings and providing liquidity to other investors. Research in this area is currently evolving into a broader agenda, emphasizing the role of financial institutions and agency frictions for asset prices. This research has the potential to explain so-called market anomalies and inform welfare and policy debates about asset markets. We begin with examples of demand shocks that generate mispricings, arguing that they can stem from behavioral or from institutional considerations. We next survey, and nest within a simple model, the following costs faced by arbitrageurs: (a) risk, both fundamental and nonfundamental; (b) short-selling costs; (c) leverage and margin constraints; and (d) constraints on equity capital. We finally discuss implications for welfare and policy and suggest directions for future research.

Suggested Citation

Gromb, Denis and Vayanos, Dimitri, Limits of Arbitrage (December 2010). Annual Review of Financial Economics, Vol. 2, pp. 251-275, 2010, Available at SSRN: or

Denis Gromb (Contact Author)

HEC Paris

1 rue de la Liberation
Jouy-en-Josas Cedex, 78351

Dimitri Vayanos

London School of Economics ( email )

Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom
+44 (0)20 7955 6382 (Phone)
+44 (0)20 7955 7420 (Fax)

Center for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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