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The (Bad?) Timing of Mutual Fund Investors

  • Braverman, Oded
  • Kandel, Shmuel
  • Wohl, Avi

This paper provides a new look at the timing of mutual fund investors. We re-examine the relationship between investors' aggregate net flows into and out of the funds and the returns of the funds in subsequent periods. The negative relationship that we find (using monthly data of aggregate US equity mutual funds in the years 1984-2003 and a statistical test based on bootstrapping of returns) causes mutual fund investors, as a group, to realize a lower long-term accumulated return than the long-term accumulated return on a 'buy and hold' position in these funds. The 'bad' performance of mutual fund investors can be explained either by 'behavioural explanations' such as investor sentiment or by 'rational market explanations' that are based on time-varying risk premiums. We present a simple overlapping-generation model which predicts a negative relationship between flows and subsequent returns. It is assumed that flows into and out of funds are not related to information about future cash flows (dividends), but are caused by changes in other factors affecting the demand for stocks. Hence, a positive (negative) net flow in a given month implies a positive (negative) price change in the same month, but also lower (higher) expected future returns. We show that in each month the change in the expected future returns may be small (relative to the return variance), but the accumulated effect of these changes may be significant. This result may explain why previous studies, using monthly data of flows and returns in either simple regression models or VAR, could not have significantly detected the monthly change in the expected future returns even in a 15-year sample.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5243.

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Date of creation: Sep 2005
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5243
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  1. J. Bradford De Long & Andrei Shleifer & Lawrence H. Summers & Robert J. Waldmann, . "Noise Trader Risk in Financial Markets," J. Bradford De Long's Working Papers _124, University of California at Berkeley, Economics Department.
  2. Edelen, Roger M. & Warner, Jerold B., 2001. "Aggregate price effects of institutional trading: a study of mutual fund flow and market returns," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(2), pages 195-220, February.
  3. William N. Goetzmann & Massimo Massa, 1999. "Index Funds and Stock Market Growth," NBER Working Papers 7033, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  8. John Y. Campbell, 2000. "Asset Pricing at the Millennium," NBER Working Papers 7589, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Brad M. Barber & Terrance Odean, 2000. "Trading Is Hazardous to Your Wealth: The Common Stock Investment Performance of Individual Investors," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 55(2), pages 773-806, 04.
  10. Terrance Odean, 1999. "Do Investors Trade Too Much?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(5), pages 1279-1298, December.
  11. Andrea Frazzini & Owen A. Lamont, 2005. "Dumb Money: Mutual Fund Flows and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns," NBER Working Papers 11526, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  12. Santini, Donald L. & Aber, Jack W., 1998. "Determinants of net new money flows to the equity mutual fund industry," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 50(5), pages 419-429, September.
  13. Bekaert, G. & Harvey, C. R. & Lumsdaine, R. L., 2002. "The dynamics of emerging market equity flows," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 295-350, June.
  14. Mosebach, Michael & Najand, Mohammad, 1999. "Are the Structural Changes in Mutual Funds Investing Driving the U.S. Stock Market to Its Current Levels?," Journal of Financial Research, Southern Finance Association;Southwestern Finance Association, vol. 22(3), pages 317-29, Fall.
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