IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/9728.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Product Differentiation, Search Costs, and Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of the S&P 500 Index Funds

Author

Listed:
  • Ali Hortacsu
  • Chad Syverson

Abstract

Two salient features of the competitive structure of the U.S. mutual fund industry are the large number of funds and the sizeable dispersion in the fees funds charge investors, even within narrow asset classes. Portfolio financial performance differences alone do not seem able to fully explain these features. We investigate whether non-portfolio fund differentiation and information/search frictions also play a role in creating these observed industry characteristics. We focus on their impact in a case study of the retail S&P 500 index funds sector. We find that fund proliferation and price dispersion also exist in this sector, despite the funds' financial homogeneity. Furthermore, there was a marked shift in sector assets to more expensive (often newly entered) funds throughout our sample period. Our analysis indicates that these observations are consistent with the presence of both non-portfolio differentiation and information/search frictions. Structural estimation of a novel search-over-differentiated-products model reveals that reasonable magnitudes of investor search costs can explain the considerable price dispersion in the sector, and consumers seem to value funds'' observable attributes such as fund age and the number of other funds in the same fund family in largely plausible ways. The results also suggest that the substantial increase in mutual fund market participation observed during our sample, and the corresponding purchase decisions of novice investors, drove the shift in assets toward more expensive funds. We also find evidence consistent with the presence of switching costs, as distinct from search costs. Using structural estimates of demand parameters and search costs, we investigate the possibility that there are too many sector funds from a social welfare standpoint. The results of this exercise indicate that restricting entry would yield nontrivial gains from reduced search costs and productivity gains from scale economies, but these may be counterbalanced by losses from increased market power and reduced product variety.

Suggested Citation

  • Ali Hortacsu & Chad Syverson, 2003. "Product Differentiation, Search Costs, and Competition in the Mutual Fund Industry: A Case Study of the S&P 500 Index Funds," NBER Working Papers 9728, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9728
    Note: CF IO
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w9728.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Khorana, Ajay & Servaes, Henri, 1999. "The Determinants of Mutual Fund Starts," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 12(5), pages 1043-1074.
    2. Small, Kenneth A & Rosen, Harvey S, 1981. "Applied Welfare Economics with Discrete Choice Models," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 49(1), pages 105-130, January.
    3. Dixit, Avinash K & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1977. "Monopolistic Competition and Optimum Product Diversity," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(3), pages 297-308, June.
    4. C.J. Krizan & John Haltiwanger & Lucia Foster, 2002. "The Link Between Aggregate and Micro Productivity Growth: Evidence from Retail Trade," Working Papers 02-18, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Carhart, Mark M, 1997. " On Persistence in Mutual Fund Performance," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 52(1), pages 57-82, March.
    6. Chevalier, Judith & Ellison, Glenn, 1997. "Risk Taking by Mutual Funds as a Response to Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 105(6), pages 1167-1200, December.
    7. Paul Klemperer, 1989. "Price Wars Caused by Switching Costs," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 56(3), pages 405-420.
    8. Erik R. Sirri & Peter Tufano, 1998. "Costly Search and Mutual Fund Flows," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 53(5), pages 1589-1622, October.
    9. Judith Chevalier & Glenn Ellison, 1999. "Career Concerns of Mutual Fund Managers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(2), pages 389-432.
    10. Burdett, Kenneth & Judd, Kenneth L, 1983. "Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 51(4), pages 955-969, July.
    11. Matthew Spiegel & Harry Mamaysky, 2001. "A Theory of Mutual Funds: Optimal Fund Objectives and Industry Organization," Yale School of Management Working Papers amz2507, Yale School of Management.
    12. Amil Petrin, 2002. "Quantifying the Benefits of New Products: The Case of the Minivan," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(4), pages 705-729, August.
    13. Carlson, John A & McAfee, R Preston, 1983. "Discrete Equilibrium Price Dispersion," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 91(3), pages 480-493, June.
    14. Falkenstein, Eric G, 1996. " Preferences for Stock Characteristics as Revealed by Mutual Fund Portfolio Holdings," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 51(1), pages 111-135, March.
    15. Matthew I. Spiegel & Harry Mamaysky, 2001. "A Theory of Mutual Funds: Optimal Fund Objectives and Industry Organization," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm219, Yale School of Management.
    16. N. Gregory Mankiw & Michael D. Whinston, 1986. "Free Entry and Social Inefficiency," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 17(1), pages 48-58, Spring.
    17. Berry, Steven & Levinsohn, James & Pakes, Ariel, 1995. "Automobile Prices in Market Equilibrium," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 63(4), pages 841-890, July.
    18. Flinn, C. & Heckman, J., 1982. "New methods for analyzing structural models of labor force dynamics," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 18(1), pages 115-168, January.
    19. Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1987. "Competition and the Number of Firms in a Market: Are Duopolies More Competitive than Atomistic Markets?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 95(5), pages 1041-1061, October.
    20. Stahl, Dale O, II, 1989. "Oligopolistic Pricing with Sequential Consumer Search," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 79(4), pages 700-712, September.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L0 - Industrial Organization - - General
    • L1 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9728. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.