Essays on empirical asset pricing
This dissertation contains two essays that use empirical techniques to shed light on open questions in the asset pricing literature. In the first essay, I investigate whether foreign institutional investors affect stock liquidity in domestic equity markets. The evidence indicates that stocks with higher foreign institutional ownership subsequently experience higher liquidity. However, it is difficult to interpret the causal relation of this finding because institutional investors self-select into more liquid stocks. To solve this problem, I exploit a provision in the 2003 US dividend tax cut which extends tax-relief to dividends from US tax-treaty countries but not to dividends from non-treaty countries. This natural experiment suggests a causal link between foreign institutional investors and liquidity. Consistent with the predictions of theoretical models, I find that liquidity improves due to foreign institutional investors increasing information competition. In the second essay, I introduce a new measure of difference of opinion using mutual fund portfolio weights to test prominent competing theories of the effect of heterogeneous beliefs on asset prices. The over-valuation theory (Miller (1977)) proposes that in the presence of short-sale constraints stock prices reflects only the view of optimistic investors which implies lower subsequent returns. Alternatively, neo-classical asset pricing models (Williams (1977), Merton (1987)) suggest that differences of opinions indicate high levels of information uncertainty or risk which implies higher expected returns. My initial result finds no support for the over-valuation theory. Instead, the measure used in this study finds that high differences of opinion stocks weakly outperform low differences of opinion stocks by 2.42% annually which is more consistent with the information uncertainty explanation.