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Individual Investing

What does it take for an individual investor to survive and thrive while swimming with the institutional and hedge fund sharks in financial market waters? Is it better to be a slow-moving, unobtrusive bottom-feeder or a nimble remora sharing a shark’s meal? These blog entries cover success and failure factors for individual investors.

John Bogle Updates His Beliefs

In his 2009 book Common Sense on Mutual Funds: Fully Updated 10th Anniversary Edition, author John Bogle has “not altered a single word of the original edition, but [has] chosen instead to update its voluminous data, and to comment on significant developments that have occurred since then…”, [trying his] “best to be candid in describing occasions when experience confirmed [his] insights of a decade ago, and when experience failed to do so…” One significant development over the past decade is the growing availability and diversity of Exchange-Traded Funds (ETF) as substitutes for mutual funds. Some notable reflections from the book are: Keep Reading

Art and Stocks

How do prices for art relate to prices for equities? Does art underperform or outperform stocks over the long run? In their November 2009 paper entitled “Art and Money”, William Goetzmann, Luc Renneboog and Christophe Spaenjers investigate relationships between equity prices and art prices and between incomes and art prices. To enable their analysis, they construct an art price index spanning 1765-2007. Since art price data draws heavily on sales in Great Britain, they focus on the British equity market and incomes. Using their art price index, a British equity market index and GDP data for 1830-2007 and British income data for 1908-2007, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Stock Picking for Individual Investors?

A reader asked: “It seems that the strategies you identify as possibly working for individual investors involve infrequently rebalanced holdings of exchange-traded funds rather than specific stocks. Are there any stock-picking strategies that individuals can use to outperform the market?” 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

Collective2, a Marketplace of Trading Systems

According to the introduction at Collective2, the site “monitors over 8,920 trading systems. Whether you trade stocks, futures, forex, or options – you’ll find a trading strategy here… Think of us as an independent ‘trading system auditor.’ We’ll investigate which trading systems are profitable.” Additionally, Collective2 serves sellers (renters) of trading systems: “If you are an expert trader, or have developed a ‘black box’ system, you can earn income by making your trade signals available to C2’s over 32,000 registered users.” What can investors/traders learn about stock trading systems from the aggregate data compiled at Collective2? Using statistics available there for 193 active stock trading systems (as of 7/29/09) and some contemporaneous returns for the S&P 500 Index and the NASDAQ Composite Index, we find that: Keep Reading

Options Detrimental to Individual Investor Health?

Do individual investors who trade equity options do better or worse than those who do not? In their October 2008 paper entitled “Option Trading and Individual Investor Performance”, Rob Bauer, Mathijs Cosemans and Piet Eichholtz examine the impact of option trading on individual investor performance. Using all daily trades and end-of-month portfolio positions for 68,146 individual Dutch investors (41,880 who trade equities only and 26,266 who trade options at least once) over the period January 2000 to March 2006, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Actual Index Options Trading Results

What kinds of returns do options traders actually achieve? In their January 2009 paper entitled “Investor Trading Behavior and Performances: Evidence from Taiwan Stock Index Options”, Bing Han, Yi-Tsung Lee and Yu-Jane Liu examine trading behavior and net returns for all traders of Taiwan stock index options. Using the complete record of transactions, orders and quotes for Taiwan stock index options during 2002-2005 (involving 238,303 individual investors, 1,076 domestic institutions, 50 foreign institutions and 29 market makers), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Critically Delegating, or Fearfully Abrogating?

Do individuals tend to think critically about financial advisor recommendations, or blindly follow them? In the March 2009 article entitled “Expert Financial Advice Neurobiologically ‘Offloads’ Financial Decision-Making under Risk”, Jan Engelmann, Monica Capra, Charles Noussair and Gregory Berns investigate the neurobiological basis of the influence of expert advice on financial decisions via functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging monitoring of individuals choosing between a certain payment and a lottery, with and without expert advice. Using test results for 24 individuals (mostly female and mostly undergraduate students), they conclude that: Keep Reading

More Motivated by Being Right Than Making Money

Do stock traders learn rationally from past trading experience? In the March 2009 version of their paper entitled “Trading and Learning: How Different Are Different Categories of Investors?”, Sankar De, Vishal Mangla, P. Bhimasankaram and Simran Singh investigate how different categories of traders revise their beliefs about the prospects for future trading success in response to past trading experiences. Using a sample of 124 million transactions on the National Stock Exchange of India within 1.2 million accounts over the period April 2006 through June 2006, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Advised, the Non-advised and Frequent Traders

How do financial advisors affect the investing practices of individual investors? Does their advice decisively improve client performance, or are other factors more explanatory? In their February 2009 paper entitled “The Influence of Financial Advisors on Household Portfolios: A Study on Private Investors Switching to Financial Advice”, Ralf Gerhardt and Andreas Hackethal compare the portfolios and transactions of advised and non-advised German investors to determine the effects of advice. They further decompose the sample of investors to explore whether differences between advised and non-advised arise from the advice per se or from investor socio-demographics or trading frequency. Using portfolio compositions and transactions for over 65,000 German investors during February 2006 through July 2007, including 597 who initiated a relationship with a financial advisor during that period, they conclude that: Keep Reading

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