Chasing the Market? Driving the Market? A Study of Mutual Fund Cash Flows
In this paper, we document strong evidence that fixed-income mutual fund investors over the period of 1984-1998 and mutual fund investors over the period of 1963-1983 follow positive feedback trading strategies, i.e. high levels of cash flows follow high market returns and low levels of cash flows follow low market returns, at the aggregate level. Our empirical results indicate that those fund investors chase past performance in a relatively long term horizon such as six months or twelve months and place monotonically increasing weights on the more recently realized bond market returns. We find strong evidence for a one way Granger causality from market returns to fund flows for bond funds over the period of 1984-1998 and aggregate mutual funds over the period of 1963-1983, confirming that the past market performance plays an important role in those investors' asset allocation decision. The study of equity fund flows finds that monthly equity fund flows are negatively correlated with lagged stock market returns, suggesting that equity fund investors follow some contrarian feedback strategy, i.e. they tend to sell funds when the market is up and to buy funds when the market is up. We also find that market returns are negatively correlated with lagged fund flows, for both equity funds and bond funds. The negative relation between returns and lagged fund flows may ease the concern about fund flows destabilizing the market. Even if the positive contemporaneous relation is due to fund flows moving the market, the effect is reversed in the subsequent months. Therefore, we find no evidence of prolonged price impact of fund flows on the asset market.
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