Two essays on stock preference and performance of institutional investors
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Two essays on the stock preference and performance of institutional investors are included in the dissertation. In the first essay, I document that mutual fund managers and other institutional investors tend to hold stocks with higher betas. This effect holds even after precisely controlling for stocks’ risk characteristics such as size, book-to-market equity ratio and momentum. This is contrary to the widely accepted view that betas are no longer associated with expected returns. However, these results support my simple model where a fund manager’s payoff function depends on returns in excess of a benchmark. For the manager, on the one hand, he tends to load up with high beta stocks since he wants to co-move with the market and other factors as much as possible. On the other hand, the manager faces a trade-off between expected performance and the volatility of tracking error. My model thus shows that the manager prefers to choose higher beta than his benchmark, and that his beta choice has an optimal level which depends on his perceived factor returns and volatility. My empirical findings further confirm the model results. First, I show that the effect of managers holding higher beta stocks is robust to a number of alternative explanations including the effects of their liquidity selection or trading activities. Second, consistent with the model predictions of managers sticking close to their benchmarks during risky periods, I demonstrate that the average beta choice of mutual fund managers can predict future market volatility, even after controlling for other common volatility predictors, such as lagged volatility and implied volatility. The second essay is the first to explicitly address the performance of actively managed mutual funds conditioned on investor sentiment. Almost all fund size quintiles subsequently outperform the market when sentiment is low while all of them underperform the market when sentiment is high. This also holds true after adjusting the fund returns by various performance benchmarks. I further show that the impact of investor sentiment on fund performance is mostly due to small investor sentiment. These findings can partially validate the existence of actively managed mutual funds which underperform the market overall (Gruber 1996). In addition, when conditioning on investor sentiment, the pattern of decreasing returns to scale in mutual funds, recently documented in Chen, Hong, Huang, and Kubik (2004), is fully reversed when sentiment is high while the pattern persists and is more pronounced when sentiment is low. Further results suggest that smaller funds tend to hold smaller stocks, which is shown to drive the above patterns. I also document that smaller funds have more sentiment timing ability or feasibility than larger funds. These findings have many important implications including persistence of fund performance which may not exist under conventional performance measures.