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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.

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

Return on Art

Do works of art provide a good return compared to equities, or do they carry an aesthetic discount? Can investors use art to hedge equities? In their July 2009 paper entitled “Art as an Investment: the Top 500 Artists”, Roman Kraeussl and Jonathan Lee employ public auction prices from Artnet.com to construct and analyze a Top 500 Art Market index based on historical prices of artworks by the top 500 artists in the world (as ranked by Artprice.com). They relate art returns to those for commodities, corporate bonds, 10-year U.S. Treasury notes, hedge funds, private equity, real estate, global stocks and U.S. Treasury bills. Using prices for nearly 100,000 art transactions and contemporaneous quarterly levels of indexes for other asset classes over the period January 1985 through March 2009 (as available), they conclude that: Keep Reading

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

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