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Penny Wise, Dollar Foolish: Buy-Sell Imbalances On and Around Round Numbers

Author

Listed:
  • Utpal Bhattacharya

    () (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405)

  • Craig W. Holden

    () (Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana 47405)

  • Stacey Jacobsen

    () (Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas 75275)

Abstract

This paper provides evidence that stock traders focus on round numbers as cognitive reference points for value. Using a random sample of more than 100 million stock transactions, we find excess buying (selling) by liquidity demanders at all price points one penny below (above) round numbers. Further, the size of the buy-sell imbalance is monotonic in the roundness of the adjacent round number (i.e., largest adjacent to integers, second-largest adjacent to half-dollars, etc.). Conditioning on the price path, we find much stronger excess buying (selling) by liquidity demanders when the ask falls (bid rises) to reach the integer than when it crosses the integer. We discuss and test three explanations for these results. Finally, 24-hour returns also vary by price point, and buy-sell imbalances are a major determinant of that variation across price points. Buying (selling) by liquidity demanders below (above) round numbers yield losses approaching $1 billion per year. This paper was accepted by Brad Barber, Teck Ho, and Terrance Odean, special issue editors.

Suggested Citation

  • Utpal Bhattacharya & Craig W. Holden & Stacey Jacobsen, 2012. "Penny Wise, Dollar Foolish: Buy-Sell Imbalances On and Around Round Numbers," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 58(2), pages 413-431, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:58:y:2012:i:2:p:413-431
    DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1110.1364
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1110.1364
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    2. Eli Beracha & Michael J. Seiler, 2015. "The Effect of Pricing Strategy on Home Selection and Transaction Prices: An Investigation of the Left-Most Digit Effect," Framed Field Experiments 00630, The Field Experiments Website.
    3. Mishra, Ajay Kumar & Tripathy, Trilochan, 2018. "Price and trade size clustering: Evidence from the national stock exchange of India," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 63-72.
    4. Chen, Tao, 2018. "Round-number biases and informed trading in global markets," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 105-117.
    5. Merkle, Christoph & Weber, Martin, 2014. "Do investors put their money where their mouth is? Stock market expectations and investing behavior," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 372-386.
    6. Fraser-Mackenzie, P. & Sung, M. & Johnson, J.E.V., 2015. "The prospect of a perfect ending: Loss aversion and the round-number bias," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 67-80.
    7. Snir, Avichai & Levy, Daniel, 2021. "If You Think 9-Ending Prices Are Low, Think Again," EconStor Open Access Articles, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    8. Jeong, Ji Youn & Crompton, John L., 2018. "Do subjects from high and low context cultures attribute different meanings to tourism services with 9-ending prices?," Tourism Management, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 110-118.
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    10. Eli Beracha & Michael Seiler, 2014. "The Effect of Listing Price Strategy on Transaction Selling Prices," The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, Springer, vol. 49(2), pages 237-255, August.
    11. Gao, Shenghao & Meng, Qingbin & Chan, Jesse Y. & Chan, Kam C., 2018. "Cognitive reference points, institutional investors' bid prices, and IPO pricing: Evidence from IPO auctions in China," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 124-140.
    12. Baig, Ahmed & Blau, Benjamin M. & Sabah, Nasim, 2019. "Price clustering and sentiment in bitcoin," Finance Research Letters, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 111-116.
    13. Utpal Bhattacharya & Wei-Yu Kuo & Tse-Chun Lin & Jing Zhao, 2018. "Do Superstitious Traders Lose Money?," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 64(8), pages 3772-3791, August.
    14. Cummins, Mark & Dowling, Michael & Lucey, Brian M., 2015. "Behavioral influences in non-ferrous metals prices," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 9-22.
    15. Jan Wieseke & Anika Kolberg & Laura Marie Schons, 2016. "Life could be so easy: the convenience effect of round price endings," Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Springer, vol. 44(4), pages 474-494, July.
    16. Dowling, Michael & Cummins, Mark & Lucey, Brian M., 2016. "Psychological barriers in oil futures markets," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 293-304.
    17. Brown, Alasdair & Yang, Fuyu, 2016. "Limited cognition and clustered asset prices: Evidence from betting markets," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 29(C), pages 27-46.
    18. Huang, Shiyang & Liu, Xin & Yin, Chengxi, 2019. "Investor target prices," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 39-57.
    19. Berk, Ales S. & Cummins, Mark & Dowling, Michael & Lucey, Brian M., 2017. "Psychological price barriers in frontier equities," Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions and Money, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 1-14.
    20. Guglielmo Maria Caporale & Alex Plastun, 2020. "Gold and Oil Prices: Abnormal Returns, Momentum and Contrarian Effects," CESifo Working Paper Series 8445, CESifo.
    21. Tao Chen & Andreas Karathanasopoulos & Stanley Iat-Meng Ko & Chia Chun Lo, 2020. "Lucky lots and unlucky investors," Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting, Springer, vol. 54(2), pages 735-751, February.
    22. Liu, Jinzhao & Gao, Shenghao & Zhou, Jun, 2019. "Clustering and discounting in auction-style SEOs – Evidence from China," Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Elsevier, vol. 57(C).

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