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Fight or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors


  • Laurent E. Calvet
  • John Y. Campbell
  • Paolo Sodini


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 find 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.

Suggested Citation

  • Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2008. "Fight or Flight? Portfolio Rebalancing by Individual Investors," NBER Working Papers 14177, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14177
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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Laurent E. Calvet & John Y. Campbell & Paolo Sodini, 2007. "Down or Out: Assessing the Welfare Costs of Household Investment Mistakes," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 115(5), pages 707-747, October.
    2. 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.
    3. Yannis Bilias & Dimitris Georgarakos & Michael Haliassos, 2010. "Portfolio Inertia and Stock Market Fluctuations," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 42(4), pages 715-742, June.
    4. Guiso, Luigi & Jappelli, Tullio, 2000. "Household Portfolios in Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 2549, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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    6. 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.
    7. 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 713-736, June.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.).
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    12. Black, Fischer, 1972. "Capital Market Equilibrium with Restricted Borrowing," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 45(3), pages 444-455, July.
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    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • G11 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Portfolio Choice; Investment Decisions

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