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When are Contrarian Profits Due to Stock Market Overreaction?

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  • Andrew W. Lo
  • A. Craig MacKinlay

Abstract

The profitability of contrarian investment strategies need not be the result of stock market overreaction. Even if returns on individual securities are temporally independent, portfolio strategies that attempt to exploit return reversals may still earn positive expected profits. This is due to the effects of cross-autocovariances from which contrarian strategies inadvertently benefit. We provide an informal taxonomy of return-generating processes that yield positive [and negative] expected profits under a particular contrarian portfolio strategy, and use this taxonomy to reconcile the empirical findings of weak negative autocorrelation for returns on individual stocks with the strong positive autocorrelation of portfolio returns. We present empirical evidence against overreaction as the primary source of contrarian profits, and show the presence of important lead-lag relations across securities.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 2977.

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Date of creation: May 1989
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Publication status: published as The Review of Financial Studies, Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 175-205, (1990).
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:2977

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  1. Fama, Eugene F, 1970. "Efficient Capital Markets: A Review of Theory and Empirical Work," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 25(2), pages 383-417, May.
  2. Andrew W. Lo, A. Craig MacKinlay, 1988. "Stock Market Prices do not Follow Random Walks: Evidence from a Simple Specification Test," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 1(1), pages 41-66.
  3. Atchison, Michael D & Butler, Kirt C & Simonds, Richard R, 1987. " Nonsynchronous Security Trading and Market Index Autocorrelation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(1), pages 111-18, March.
  4. Phillips, P C B, 1987. "Time Series Regression with a Unit Root," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 277-301, March.
  5. Bruce N. Lehmann, 1988. "Fads, Martingales, and Market Efficiency," NBER Working Papers 2533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Roll, Richard, 1984. " A Simple Implicit Measure of the Effective Bid-Ask Spread in an Efficient Market," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 39(4), pages 1127-39, September.
  7. De Bondt, Werner F M & Thaler, Richard H, 1987. " Further Evidence on Investor Overreaction and Stock Market Seasonalit y," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 42(3), pages 557-81, July.
  8. De Bondt, Werner F M & Thaler, Richard, 1985. " Does the Stock Market Overreact?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 40(3), pages 793-805, July.
  9. Kim, M.J. & Nelson, C.R. & Startz, R., 1988. "Mean Reversion In Stock Prices? A Reappraisal Of Empirical Evidence," Discussion Papers in Economics at the University of Washington 88-15, Department of Economics at the University of Washington.
  10. De Long, J Bradford, et al, 1990. " Positive Feedback Investment Strategies and Destabilizing Rational Speculation," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(2), pages 379-95, June.
  11. Fama, Eugene F & French, Kenneth R, 1988. "Permanent and Temporary Components of Stock Prices," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(2), pages 246-73, April.
  12. Summers, Lawrence H, 1986. " Does the Stock Market Rationally Reflect Fundamental Values?," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 41(3), pages 591-601, July.
  13. Scholes, Myron & Williams, Joseph, 1977. "Estimating betas from nonsynchronous data," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(3), pages 309-327, December.
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