Essays on Stock Investing and Investor Behavior

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Essays on Stock Investing and Investor Behavior

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Title: Essays on Stock Investing and Investor Behavior
Author: Ranish, Benjamin Michael
Citation: Ranish, Benjamin Michael. 2013. Essays on Stock Investing and Investor Behavior. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: Chapter one shows that US households with high unconditional and cyclical labor income risk are more leveraged and allocate a greater share of their financial assets to stocks. I use self-reported risk preferences to show that rational sorting of risk tolerant workers into risky employment is responsible for this otherwise puzzling result. With risk preferences accounted for, I find evidence that households with greater permanent income variance reduce leverage and stock allocations to an extent consistent with theory. However, household portfolios and employment selection do not respond significantly to any of the other three forms of labor income risk I measure: disaster risk, permanent income cyclicality, and permanent income variance cyclicality. Chapter two reports evidence that individual investors in Indian equities hold better performing portfolios as they become more experienced in the equity market. Experienced investors tilt their portfolios profitably towards value stocks and stocks with low turnover, but these tilts do not fully explain their performance. Experienced investors also tend to have lower turnover and disposition bias. These behaviors, as well as underdiversification, diminish when investors experience poor returns resulting from them, consistent with models of reinforcement learning. Furthermore, Indian stocks held by experienced, well diversified, low-turnover and low-disposition-bias investors deliver higher average returns even controlling for a standard set of stock-level characteristics. Chapter three shows that news reflected by industry stock returns is only gradually incorporated into stock prices in other countries. Information links between cross-border portfolios play a significant role in explaining variation in the speed of this incorporation; responses to industry news are rapid across borders where portfolios share more crosslistings, equity analyst coverage, and a greater common equity investor base. The drift in returns following cross-border industry news has halved in the past 25 years. About half of this change relates to a growth in information links and reductions in expropriations risks facing foreign investors. A simple long-short trading strategy designed to exploit gradual diffusion of industry news across borders appears profitable, but is unlikely to yield returns as high as the 8 to 9 percent annual rate the strategy has returned historically.
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