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Fight or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors

  • Campbell, John
  • Calvert, Lauren E.
  • Sodini, Paolo

This paper investigates the dynamics of individual portfolios in a unique dataset containing the disaggregated wealth of all households in Sweden. Between 1999 and 2002, we observe little aggregate rebalancing in the financial portfolio of participants. These patterns conceal strong household-level evidence of active rebalancing, which on average offsets about one half of idiosyncratic passive variations in the risky asset share. Wealthy, educated investors with better diversified portfolios tend to rebalance more actively. We found some evidence that households rebalance towards a higher risky share as they become richer. We also study the decisions to trade individual assets. Households are more likely to fully sell directly held stocks if those stocks have performed well, and more likely to exit direct stockholding if their stock portfolios have performed well; but these relationships are much weaker for mutual funds, a pattern which is consistent with previous research on the disposition effect among direct stockholders and performance sensitivity among mutual fund investors. When households continue to hold individual assets, however, they rebalance both stocks and mutual funds to offset about one sixth of the passive variations in individual asset shares. Households rebalance primarily by adjusting purchases of risky assets if their risky portfolios have performed poorly, and by adjusting both fund purchases and full sales of stocks if their risky portfolios have performed well. Finally, the tendency for households to fully sell winning stocks is weaker for wealthy investors with diversified portfolios of individual stocks.

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Paper provided by Harvard University Department of Economics in its series Scholarly Articles with number 2617031.

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Date of creation: 2009
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Quarterly Journal of Economics
Handle: RePEc:hrv:faseco:2617031
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  1. Brennan, Michael J & Schwartz, Eduardo S, 1988. " Time-Invariant Portfolio Insurance Strategies," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 43(2), pages 283-99, June.
  2. Calvet, Laurent E. & Campbell, John Y. & Sodini, Paolo, 2006. "Down or Out: Assessing The Welfare Costs of Household Investment Mistakes," Working Paper Series 195, Sveriges Riksbank (Central Bank of Sweden).
  3. Bergstresser, Daniel & Poterba, James, 2004. "Asset allocation and asset location: household evidence from the survey of consumer finances," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(9-10), pages 1893-1915, August.
  4. Blume, Marshall E & Friend, Irwin, 1975. "The Asset Structure of Individual Portfolios and Some Implications for Utility Functions," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 30(2), pages 585-603, May.
  5. Carol C. Bertaut & Martha Starr-McCluer, 2000. "Household portfolios in the United States," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-26, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  6. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 2000. "Household Portfolios in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2549, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. 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.
  8. Bilias, Yannis & Georgarakos, Dimitris & Haliassos, Michael, 2006. "Portfolio inertia and stock market fluctuations," CFS Working Paper Series 2006/14, Center for Financial Studies (CFS).
  9. Black, Fischer, 1972. "Capital Market Equilibrium with Restricted Borrowing," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(3), pages 444-55, July.
  10. Markus K. Brunnermeier & Stefan Nagel, 2008. "Do Wealth Fluctuations Generate Time-Varying Risk Aversion? Micro-evidence on Individuals," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(3), pages 713-36, June.
  11. Julie Agnew & Pierluigi Balduzzi & Annika Sundén, 2003. "Portfolio Choice and Trading in a Large 401(k) Plan," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 193-215, March.
  12. James Banks & Richard Blundell & James Smith, 2004. "Wealth Portfolios in the United Kingdom and the United States," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 205-246 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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