Three essays on mutual funds
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This dissertation investigates the determinants of mutual fund flows and mutual fund performance. The first chapter examines the response of fund investors to style volatility and the impact of style volatility on the flow-performance relationship. Three main empirical findings are obtained using both a portfolio approach and a multivariate regression approach. First, I find that there is a significant positive relationship between the style volatility and the subsequent fund flows to mutual funds. This finding can be interpreted as either fund managers having style timing ability or fund managers catering to investors preferences or tastes. Second, the positive relationship between past style volatility and fund flows is less pronounced for funds with superior past performance. Lastly, fund style volatility has a dampening effect on the flow-performance relationship: the flow-performance sensitivity weakens by 12% when the past style volatility increases by one standard deviation. It is likely that performance is perceived as a less informative signal of investment ability for fund managers who follow inconsistent styles over time. The second chapter studies how the response of fund investors to past risk varies over business cycles. I employ the NBER boom indicator, the Consumer Sentiment Index, and the National Activity Index to proxy for economic conditions. I find that mutual fund investors react differently to risk across economic environments. Funds with more volatile past returns discourage fund investors. The investors’ demand for actively managed funds is higher under good market conditions. Fund flows are less responsive to risk during expansionary economic periods. This finding may indicate that fund investors are risk averse and become less risk averse in good market states. The third chapter empirically examines whether mutual fund performance is affected by prior family performance. I propose two testable hypotheses: the information and resource sharing hypothesis and the cross-fund subsidization hypothesis. The empirical findings suggest that there is a significant positive relationship between prior family performance and subsequent fund performance. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that mutual funds in the same family share informational resources. This positive relation also justifies the finding in the mutual fund flow literature that fund flows are higher for funds with higher past family performance. Furthermore, I find that the predictive power of the prior family performance is stronger in larger fund families.