Is anti-herding always a smart choice? Evidence from mutual funds
John Byong-Tek Lee (University of Auckland), Jun Ma (University of Auckland), Dimitris Margaritis (University of Auckland), Wanyi Yang (SKBI) | Nov 2023 | Market Innovations and FinTech

Recent empirical studies document a negative relation between herding behaviour and the skill of mutual fund managers. We explore this relationship further by focusing on fund managers' contrarian buy and sell behaviour against the market. Our study reveals an asymmetry in the performance of mutual funds with contrarian buy behaviour and contrarian sell behaviour. The contrarian-buy behaviour reflects skill by positively predicting the cross-section of next period's mutual fund returns, while the contrarian-sell behaviour reflects a lack of skill associated with a negative prediction. These findings are robust to various risk-adjusted performance measures. Contrarian-buy funds outperform momentum-buy funds by 3% per year, while contrarian-sell funds underperform momentum-sell peers by about 4%. These findings are robust across different sizes and styles of mutual funds. Further analysis indicates that the asymmetric effect is reversed during recessions and disappears when market sentiment is high. We also study how mutual fund characteristics relate to contrarian buy and sell practices. We find that mutual funds with larger size, higher flow, lower tracking error, and no manager ownership are more likely to buy against the crowd but sell with the crowd.


Physical Frictions and Digital Banking Adoption
Hyun-Soo Choi (KAIST), Roger Loh (SMU) | Forthcoming in Management Science, April 2023| Market Innovations and FinTech Financial Inclusion and Household

A behavioural literature suggests that minor frictions can elicit desirable behaviour without obvious coercion. Using closures of ATMs in a densely populated city as an instrument for small frictions to physical banking access, we find that customers affected by ATM closures increase their usage of the bank’s digital platform. Other spillover effects of this adoption of financial technology include increases in point-of-sale (POS) transactions, electronic funds transfers, automatic bill payments and savings, and a reduction in cash usage. Our results show that minor frictions can help overcome the status-quo bias and facilitate significant behaviour change.


Three little words? The impact of social security terminology on knowledge and claiming intentions
Francisco Perez-Arce (University of Southern California), Lila Rabinovich (University of Southern California), Joanne Yoong (SKBI), Laith Alattar (Social Security Administration) | Published in Journal of Pension Economics & Finance, First View, February 2023, Pages 1–20 | Financial Inclusion and Household

We study the impact of changing the existing terminology to describe the rules governing Social Security retirement benefits. We provided respondents from a nationally representative online panel with information pertinent to the decision of when to claim Social Security retirement benefits. The content of the information treatments was identical for all respondents, but some were randomly given an alternative set of terms to refer to the key claiming ages (the experimental treatment group), while others were given the current terms (the control group). Despite the minimal nature of the change, there were significant differences in outcomes. Those in the treatment group spent less time reading the information, but their understanding of the Social Security program improved more than the control group. In addition, the treatment delayed retirement claiming intentions by an average of about two and a half months and increased the recommended claiming age to vignette characters by a similar magnitude. The effects were particularly strong for those with low levels of financial literacy. The relative gains in knowledge persisted several months after the treatment.


Responsible Hedge Funds
Hao Liang (SMU), Lin Sun (Fudan University), Melvyn Teo (SMU) | Published in Review of Finance, Volume 26, Issue 6, November 2022, Pages 1585–1633 | Sustainability and Green Finance

Hedge funds that endorse the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) underperform other hedge funds after adjusting for risk but attract greater investor flows, accumulate more assets, and harvest greater fee revenues. Consistent with an agency explanation, the underperformance is driven by PRI signatories with low environmental, social, and governance (ESG) exposures and is greater for hedge funds with poor incentive alignment. To address endogeneity, we exploit regulatory reforms that enhance stewardship and show that the ESG exposure and relative performance of signatory funds improve post reforms. Our findings suggest that some hedge funds endorse responsible investment to pander to investor preferences. 


Commodity Return Predictability: Evidence from Implied Variance, Skewness and their Risk Premia
Marinela Adriana Finta (SKBI) and José Renato Haas Ornelas (Banco Central do Brasil) | Apr 2022 | Sustainability and Green Finance

This paper investigates the role of realized and implied moments and their risk premia (variance and skewness) for commodities’ future returns. We estimate these moments from high frequency and commodity futures option data that results in forward-looking measures. Risk premia are computed as the difference between implied and realized moments. We highlight, from a cross-sectional and time-series perspective, the strong positive relation between commodity returns and implied skewness. Moreover, we emphasize the high performance of skewness risk premium. Additionally, we show that their portfolios exhibit the best risk-return tradeoff. Most of our results are robust to other factors such as the momentum and roll yield.

View the working paper. 


Decentralizing Money: Bitcoin Prices and Blockchain Security
Emiliano Pagnotta (SMU) | Published in The Review of Financial Studies, Volume 35, Issue 2, Feb 2022, Pages 866–907 | Market Innovations and FinTech

This paper studies the equilibrium determination of bitcoin prices and its blockchain security. Complementarities between users and miners lead to multiple equilibria: the same blockchain technology is consistent with different price-security levels. Bitcoin’s design embeds price volatility amplification of demand shocks and is prone to exhibit seemingly irrational price jumps. The results clarify when bitcoin demand strengthens against conventional currencies. 

View the working paper.


Japanese Monetary Policy and Its Impact on Stock Market Implied Volatility During Pleasant and Unpleasant Weather
Marinela Adriana Finta (SKBI) | Published in Pacific-Basin Finance Journal, Volume 67, Jun 2021| Financial Inclusion and Household

We investigate the effect of Japan's Monetary Policy Meeting releases on the intraday dynamics of the Nikkei Stock Average Volatility Index and its futures during pleasant and unpleasant weather. We show that at the time of a monetary policy release when the temperature is pleasant, there is a significant decline in Japanese equities' implied volatility and futures, which lasts for about 10 min and 5 min, respectively. This decline is longer and exhibits a greater variation when releases occur during cold days. Finally, we emphasize the achievable economic profits and losses, given the reaction of Nikkei VI futures to the Japanese monetary policy releases during pleasant and unpleasant weather days, respectively. In particular, taking a short position at the start of the trading day on pleasant days and closing this position at the end of the trading day generates an average annual return of 5.6%.

View the working paper.


Risk Premium Spillovers among Stock Markets: Evidence from Higher-Order Moments
Marinela Adriana Finta (SKBI) and Sofiane Aboura (University of Paris XIII) | Published in Journal of Financial Markets, Volume 49, Jun 2020 | Financial Inclusion and Household

We investigate the volatility and skewness risk premium spillovers among the U.S., U.K., German, and Japanese stock markets. We define risk premia as the difference between risk-neutral and realized moments. Our findings highlight that during periods of stress, cross-market and cross-moment spillovers increase and that these increases are mirrored by a decrease in within-market effects. We document strong bidirectional spillovers between volatility and skewness risk premia and emphasize the prominent role played by the volatility risk premium. Finally, we show that several announcements drive the time-varying risk premium spillovers.

View the working paper.


The Global Sustainability Footprint of Sovereign Wealth Funds
Hao Liang (SMU LKCSB) and Luc Renneboog (Tilburg University) | Published in Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Volume 36, Issue 2, Summer 2020, Pages 380–426 | Sustainability and Green Finance

With the emergence of sovereign wealth funds (SWFs) around the world managing equity of over $8 trillion, their impact on the corporate landscape and social welfare is being scrutinized. This study investigates whether and how SWFs incorporate environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in their investment decisions in publicly listed corporations, as well as the subsequent evolution of target firms’ ESG performance. We find that SWF funds do consider the level of past ESG performance as well as recent ESG score improvement when taking ownership stakes in listed companies. These results are driven by the SWF funds that do have an explicit or implicit ESG policy and are most transparent, and by SWF originating from developed countries and countries with civil law origins. In relation to engagement, we find by means of two natural experiments with exogenous shocks (the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and Volkwagen diesel scandal) that the ESG scores do not change significantly more for firms in which SWFs have ownership stakes. This potentially suggests that SWFs in general do not actively steer their target firms towards higher levels of ESG.


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