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Investor Sentiment and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns

  • Malcolm Baker
  • Jeffrey Wurgler

We examine how investor sentiment affects the cross-section of stock returns. Theory predicts that a broad wave of sentiment will disproportionately affect stocks whose valuations are highly subjective and are difficult to arbitrage. We test this prediction by studying how the cross-section of subsequent stock returns varies with proxies for beginning-of-period investor sentiment. When sentiment is low, subsequent returns are relatively high on smaller stocks, high volatility stocks, unprofitable stocks, non-dividend-paying stocks, extreme-growth stocks, and distressed stocks, consistent with an initial underpricing of these stocks. When sentiment is high, on the other hand, these patterns attenuate or fully reverse. The results are consistent with predictions and appear unlikely to reflect an alternative explanation based on compensation for systematic risk.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10449.

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Date of creation: Apr 2004
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Publication status: published as Malcolm Baker & Jeffrey Wurgler, 2006. "Investor Sentiment and the Cross-Section of Stock Returns," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 61(4), pages 1645-1680, 08.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10449
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