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Do Sophisticated Investors Believe in the Law of Small Numbers?

Author

Listed:
  • Baquero, G.
  • Verbeek, M.J.C.M.

Abstract

Believers in the law of small numbers tend to overinfer the outcome of a random process after a small series of observations. They believe that small samples replicate the probability distribution properties of the population. We provide empirical evidence indicating that investors are mistakenly driven by this psychological bias when hiring or firing a fund manager after a successful (or losing) performance streak. Using quarterly data between 1994 and 2000 of 752 hedge funds, we analyze actual money flows into and out of hedge funds and their relationship with the length of the streak. We first show that persistence patterns have a predictive ability of future relative performance of a manager: the longer the winner streak, the larger the probability for a fund to remain a winner. Investors, in turn, appear to be aware of quality dispersion across managers and respond by following a momentum strategy: the longer the winning (losing) streak, the more likely they will invest in (divest from) that fund. Yet, we find that investors place excessive weight in the managers’ track record as a criterion for decision. Our model shows that the length of the streak has an economically and statistically significant impact on money flows beyond rationally expected performance, which confirms a “hot-hand” bias driving to a large extent momentum investing. Apparently, even sophisticated investors exhibit psychological biases that may have adverse effects on their wealth.

Suggested Citation

  • Baquero, G. & Verbeek, M.J.C.M., 2006. "Do Sophisticated Investors Believe in the Law of Small Numbers?," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2006-033-F&A, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
  • Handle: RePEc:ems:eureri:7875
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    File URL: https://repub.eur.nl/pub/7875/ERS-2006-033-F&A.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Agarwal, Vikas & Naik, Narayan Y., 2000. "Multi-Period Performance Persistence Analysis of Hedge Funds," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 35(3), pages 327-342, September.
    2. Baquero, Guillermo & ter Horst, Jenke & Verbeek, Marno, 2005. "Survival, Look-Ahead Bias, and Persistence in Hedge Fund Performance," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 40(3), pages 493-517, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Axel Stahmer, 2015. "Fund flows inducing mispricing of risk in competitive financial markets," ESMT Research Working Papers ESMT-15-04, ESMT European School of Management and Technology.
    2. Matthew Rabin & Dimitri Vayanos, 2010. "The Gambler's and Hot-Hand Fallacies: Theory and Applications," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 77(2), pages 730-778.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Hedge Fund Investors; Hot-Hand Bias; Law of Small Numbers; Overreaction; Performance Persistence;

    JEL classification:

    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading
    • G23 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Non-bank Financial Institutions; Financial Instruments; Institutional Investors
    • G3 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance
    • M - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics

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