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The Limits of the Limits of Arbitrage


  • Alon Brav
  • J.B. Heaton
  • Si Li


We test the limits of arbitrage argument for the survival of irrationality-induced financial anomalies by sorting securities on their individual residual variability as a proxy for idiosyncratic risk -- a commonly asserted limit to arbitrage -- and comparing the strength of anomalous returns in low versus high residual variability portfolios. We find no support for the limits of arbitrage argument to explain undervaluation anomalies (small value stocks, value stocks generally, recent winners, and positive earnings surprises) but strong support for the limits of arbitrage argument to explain overvaluation anomalies (small growth stocks, growth stocks generally, recent losers, and negative earnings surprises). Other tests also fail to support the limits of arbitrage argument for the survival of overvaluation anomalies and suggest that at least some of the factor premiums for size, book-to-market, and momentum are unrelated to irrationality protected by limits to arbitrage. Copyright 2010, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Alon Brav & J.B. Heaton & Si Li, 2010. "The Limits of the Limits of Arbitrage," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 14(1), pages 157-187.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:revfin:v:14:y:2010:i:1:p:157-187

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    Cited by:

    1. Borja Amor-Tapia & Maria T. Tascon, 2016. "Separating Winners from Losers: Composite Indicators Based on Fundamentals in the European Context," Czech Journal of Economics and Finance (Finance a uver), Charles University Prague, Faculty of Social Sciences, vol. 66(1), pages 70-94, February.
    2. DeLisle, R. Jared & McTier, Brian C. & Smedema, Adam R., 2016. "Systematic limited arbitrage and the cross-section of stock returns: Evidence from exchange traded funds," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 118-136.
    3. Peterson, David R. & Smedema, Adam R., 2011. "The return impact of realized and expected idiosyncratic volatility," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 35(10), pages 2547-2558, October.
    4. Jacobs, Heiko, 2015. "What explains the dynamics of 100 anomalies?," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 65-85.
    5. Pavel Bandarchuk & Jens Hilscher, 2013. "Sources of Momentum Profits: Evidence on the Irrelevance of Characteristics," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 17(2), pages 809-845.
    6. Broman, Markus S., 2016. "Liquidity, style investing and excess comovement of exchange-traded fund returns," Journal of Financial Markets, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 27-53.
    7. Cao, Jie & Han, Bing, 2016. "Idiosyncratic risk, costly arbitrage, and the cross-section of stock returns," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 73(C), pages 1-15.
    8. Aboulamer, Anas & Kryzanowski, Lawrence, 2016. "Are idiosyncratic volatility and MAX priced in the Canadian market?," Journal of Empirical Finance, Elsevier, vol. 37(C), pages 20-36.

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