Loss aversion, asymmetric market comovements, and the home bias
Loss aversion has been used to explain why a high equity premium might be consistent with plausible levels of risk aversion. The intuition is that the different utility impact of wealth gains and losses leads loss-averse investors to behave similarly to investors with high risk aversion. But if so, should these agents not perceive larger gains from international diversification than standard expected-utility preference agents with plausible levels of risk aversion? They might not, because comovements in international stock markets are asymmetric: Correlations are higher in market downturns than in upturns. This asymmetry dampens the gains from diversification relatively more for loss-averse investors. We analyze the portfolio problem of such an investor who has to choose between home and foreign equities in the presence of asymmetric comovement in returns. Perhaps surprisingly, in the context of the home bias puzzle we find that the loss-averse investors behave similarly to those with standard expected-utility preferences and plausible levels of risk aversion. We argue that preference specifications that appear to perform well with respect to the equity premium puzzle should be subjected to this "test."
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