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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.

Do Mutual Funds That Practice Behavioral Finance Principles Outperform?

Do mutual funds that implement the tenets of behavioral finance, in defiance of the Efficient Market Hypothesis, outperform? Can they find and exploit systematic behavioral mispricings? In their August 2006 paper entitled “Behavioral Finance: Are the Disciples Profiting from the Doctrine?”, Colby Wright, Prithviraj Banerjee and Vaneesha Boney assess whether expert investors have validated the principles of behavioral finance by examining the aggregate performance of a group of mutual funds that practice them. Using equal-weighted data for 16 mutual funds most visibly associated with behavioral finance (see table below), they find that: Keep Reading

Stock Price Impacts of Management Changes

A reader observed and asked: “I read today that Peter Dolan, the CEO of Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY), left the company…BMY was up nearly 4% at the open. How many other times have CEOs of unprofitable/unloved publicly traded companies gotten sacked and the share price rises on the news? Could this be a market inefficiency that market makers and traders (i.e., hedge funds) exploit to the chagrin of individual and institutional investors (mutual funds)? Does a publicly traded company with a stock price stagnant for years get a trader’s premium when a management change occurs?” Keep Reading

Spam Spasms: This Stock Ready to Explode!

Does touting of penny stocks via email spam work? If so, for whom? In their July 2006 paper entitled “Spam Works: Evidence from Stock Touts and Corresponding Market Activity”, Laura Frieder and Jonathan Zittrain assess the impact of unsolicited email touting on Pink Sheet stock prices. They also investigate who wins and who loses from such attempted manipulation. They construct their test sample from 75,415 unsolicited email messages touting a total of 307 mostly Pink Sheet stocks between January 2004 and July 2005, along with associated price and volume data for these stocks. They then create a control sample of randomly selected comparable Pink Sheet stocks. By comparing the test and control samples, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Jim Cramer’s Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Market?

Can traders exploit irrational reactions to Jim Cramer’s stock recommendations by viewers of CNBC’s Mad Money? In their March 2006 paper entitled “Is the Market Mad? Evidence from Mad Money, Joseph Engelberg, Caroline Sasseville and Jared Williams measure the market’s reaction to Mr. Cramer’s buy recommendations. Using a sample of 246 initial recommendations made by Jim Cramer on Mad Money episodes between July 28, 2005 and October 14, 2005, as recorded by YourMoneyWatch.com, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Scared by Randomness?

How often should an investor/trader check the performance of their positions? Does it make a difference (psychologically) whether one checks frequently or infrequently? In their 2005 paper entitled “The Scaling Property of Randomness: The Impact of Reporting Frequency on The Perceived Performance of Investment Funds”, Nigel Finch, Guy Ford, Suresh Cuganesan and Tyrone Carlin use actual investment fund performance data to explore the likelihood that an investor would have viewed the performance as positive or negative based on sampling frequency. Applying prospect theory (a loss in wealth has a negative impact 2.25 times greater in magnitude than the positive impact of a gain in wealth) to data for four large Australian investment funds (see table below), they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Illusionary Markets Hypothesis?

Can influential traders actively profit from the psychological biases, the not fully rational decisions, of others? In the January 2005 update of their paper entitled “Illusionary Finance and Trading Behavior”, Malika Hamadi, Erick Rengifo and Diego Salzman introduce the concept of illusionary finance, based on the psychology of decision-making under time pressure and ambiguity, and analyze the creation and dissemination of illusions stock markets. They propose that: Keep Reading

The Hedge Fund Public Relations Game Plan?

Is this how a savvy hedge fund manager plays the game? First, get cozy with other fund managers, financial market research firms and the financial media. Then “orchestrate” the attention paid to a company in which the manager’s fund has taken a position? Here’s a picture, with some links to relevant allegations and news/commentary… Keep Reading

An Overview of Investor Animal Spirits

What formal studies does academia have to offer on the role of emotions in equity investing/trading? In their October 2004 paper entitled “The Role of Feelings in Investor Decision-Making”, Michael Dowling and Brian Lucey synthesize the results of two threads of recent areas of research on whether and how emotions affect investing: (1) mood misattribution (the impact of environmental factors, such as the weather, the body’s biorhythms and social factors); and (2) image (how investors feel about companies separately from any financial analysis). They note that: Keep Reading

Finding Memes for Contrarian or Trend-following Plays

The Internet enables rapid flow and ebb of trading memes. Trend followers hope to ride a meme and get out before it fades. Contrarians take the other side in anticipation of the fade. Traditional tools for inferring memes include price-volume action and market sentiment. Do emerging information-filtering technologies present novel ways of discovering investing/trading memes from surges of news on the web? Building on ideas offered in the article “Finding Signals in the Noise” from Technology Review, we offer a few possible meme-detectors: Keep Reading

Classic Paper: Emergence of Behavioral Finance

We have selected for retrospective review a few all-time “best selling” research papers of the past few years from the General Financial Markets category of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Here we summarize the October 2002 paper entitled “From Efficient Markets Theory to Behavioral Finance” (download count over 4,100) by Robert Shiller, author of the book Irrational Exuberance. This paper traces the recent history of financial market research, from an erosion of faith in the efficient markets theory to a growing collaboration between the social sciences and finance. Shiller’s key points are: Keep Reading

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