Posts in Behavioral Finance


Swedroe Spotlight: Does Market Sentiment Help Explain Momentum?

April 17, 2017

David Smith, Na Wang, Ying Wang and Edward Zychowicz contribute to the literature on momentum with their paper, “Sentiment and the Effectiveness of Technical Analysis: Evidence from the Hedge Fund Industry,” which was published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis. Their work examines how investor sentiment affects the effectiveness of technical analysis strategies (which include the use of moving averages as well as momentum) used by hedge funds (which are considered sophisticated investors). The study was motivated by prior research that has focused on “investor sentiment,” which is the propensity of individuals to trade on noise and emotions rather than facts. Sentiment causes investors to have beliefs about future cash flows and investment risks that aren’t justified. Two researchers, Malcolm Baker and Jeffrey Wurgler, constructed an investor sentiment index based on six measures: trading volume as measured by NYSE turnover; the dividend premium (the difference between the average market-to-book ratio of dividend-payers and non-payers); the closed-end fund discount; the number and first-day returns of IPOs; and the equity share in new issues. Data is available at through Wurgler and New York University.

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The Dividend Disconnect: Behavioral Finance Strikes Again

June 2, 2017

The first prediction in the paper is that "Capital Gains and Dividends Viewed as Distinct Desirable Attributes". But what does that mean? The authors highlight that when assessing stock positions, an investor has two options for how to assess the performance -- (1) simple price appreciation/depreciation or (2) total return. Note that price appreciation/depreciation is simply the price appreciation/depreciation on the position, while total return includes both the price appreciation/depreciation plus the dividend return. Directly from the paper: For many positions, either price changes or returns including dividends will yield the same category of gain or loss. However, some positions are at a gain when dividends are included, but at a loss without their inclusion. Do investors treat such positions as being at a gain or at a loss when evaluating whether to sell the position? This is equivalent to asking whether investors adjust for the mechanical decrease in shares price that results from dividend payments.

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