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Animal Spirits

Are investors and traders cats, rationally and independently sniffing out returns? Or are they cows, flowing with a herd that must know something? These blog entries relate to behavioral finance, the study of the animal spirits of investing and trading.

Individual Risk Tolerance Under the Hood

How can an advisor accurately gauge and effectively respond to the risk tolerance(s) of an advisee? In their January 2010 paper entitled “Beyond Risk Tolerance: Regret, Overconfidence, and Other Investor Propensities”, Carrie Pan and Meir Statman: (1) argue that the typical questionnaire used to assess advisee risk tolerance is deficient for five reasons; and, (2) offer remedies for these deficiencies. Using historical asset class return data and results of multiple investor surveys, they conclude that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Trading from Your Gut

In his 2009 book Trading from Your Gut: How to Use Right Brain Instinct & Left Brain Smarts to Become a Master Trader, author Curtis Faith uses stories and examples to “show how to develop your intuition and confidence in the decisions of your gut instinct so that you can use your whole mind while trading.” He preempts left-brained skeptics as follows: “If you are one of those traders who doesn’t believe that gut instinct or intuition has any place in trading, I invite you to keep an open mind. I, too, once felt as you did. After all, I was trained to take a very systematic and logical approach to trading… I believed that it was important to keep your emotions in check.” Some notable points from the book are: Keep Reading

Stock Price Clustering at Options Expiration

A reader commented: “Re ‘Clustering of Market Closes Near Round Numbers?’, the situation in which clustering is important is at option expiration on stocks with heavily traded options. Professional option writers maximize profit when the underlying stock closes near to the strike price at which the open interest is highest. Look at GOOG and how close it gets to a number divisible by $10 on that one day a month. The odds of closing exactly on such a number are 1/1000. Look at May 15: $390.00. Only the August expiration price for GOOG was not close to a ’10’ number.” Keep Reading

Clustering of Market Closes Near Round Numbers?

There is a fair amount of research on clustering of prices for individual stocks and other assets near round numbers. (For examples, search the Social Science Research Network for “price clustering”.) Do closing levels of the S&P 500 Index tend to cluster near round numbers? To investigate, we count the number of daily closes for adjacent 10-point ranges of the S&P 500 Index from one centered on 500 to one centered on 1570. The first range in the sample is therefore 495-505 and the last is 1565-1575. Using all closes of the index above 495 (roughly since 1995), we find that: Keep Reading

Abnormal Returns After Switches to/from Daylight Saving Time?

Do sleep disruptions from switches between standard time and daylight saving time reliably affect the return on the next trading day? In their September 2009 paper entitled “The Daylight Saving Time Anomaly in Stock Returns: Fact or Fiction?”, Russell Gregory-Allen, Ben Jacobsen and Wessel Marquering revisit this question based on a much larger sample than used in prior studies. Using daily returns of stock market indexes around switches to/from daylight saving time for 22 countries around the world spanning 1966-2005 (1,150 switches, tilted toward later decades), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Genetics of Investing (Not Algorithms)

Two recent papers investigate the genetics of individual investing. The September 2009 paper “Nature or Nurture: What Determines Investor Behavior?” by Amir Barnea, Henrik Cronqvist and Stephan Siegel examines the degree to which genetic makeup influences individual investing behavior. The July 2009 paper “IQ and Stock Market Participation” by Mark Grinblatt, Matti Keloharju and Juhani Linnainmaa explores the relationship between intelligence and individual investing. These studies conclude that: Keep Reading

Global Stock Market Contagion

A reader observed and asked: “In the last few weeks, there have been several times when the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) was down a lot, and Asian stock markets followed it down the next day. How reliably do Asian stock markets follow sharp drops in the U.S. stock market?” To investigate, we first examine the overall relationship between the U.S. stock market (represented, as suggested, by the DJIA) and Asian stock markets (Hang Seng and Nikkei 225). Then, we focus on what happens in Asian stock markets the day after sharp drops in the U.S. market. Using daily closing levels of the DJIA, the Hang Seng index and the Nikkei 225 index for 12/31/86-8/14/09 (roughly 5800 trading days), we find that: Keep Reading

Overreaction Persistence: Sources and Consequences

Is overreaction pervasive? Is it resistant to learning, or does experience temper it? Is overconfidence a driver of overreaction? How does overreaction affect portfolio performance? Two related July 2009 papers entitled “Overreaction in Stock Forecasts and Prices” by Alen Nosic and Martin Weber and “Overreaction and Investment Choices: An Experimental Analysis” by Bruno Biais, Alen Nosic and Martin Weber tackle these questions experimentally. Using somewhat informed university students as subjects, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Overview of Confirmation Bias

How real and substantial is confirmation bias as an inhibitor of individual investor and market belief adjustments? What factors affect its impact? In their July 2009 paper entitled “Feeling Validated Versus Being Correct: A Meta-Analysis of Selective Exposure to Information”, William Hart, Dolores Albarracin, Alice Eagly, Inge Brechan, Matthew Lindberg and Lisa Merrill survey a broad selection of past research measuring the degree to which people favor information that supports pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors over information that challenges pre-existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. Using results from 67 reports encompassing 91 separate studies of 300 statistically independent groups comprised of nearly 8,000 participants, they conclude that: Keep Reading

An Annual Worldwide Optimism Cycle (Sell in May)?

Does the conventional wisdom to “sell in May,” with the average stock return during November-April far exceeding that for May-October, work for the world equity market? If so, why? In the November 2005 version of his paper entitled “The Optimism Cycle: Sell in May”, flagged by a reader, Ronald Doeswijk examines the hypothesis that this seasonal pattern derives from an annual optimism cycle. Using monthly return data for markets, sectors and Initial Public Offerings (IPO) over the period 1970 through 2003 (34 years), he concludes that: Keep Reading

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