Three studies on the timing of investment advisers' loss realizations

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2008-08

Authors

Sikes, Stephanie Ann, 1976-

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Abstract

In this dissertation, I use a unique data set to address three questions related to the timing of loss realizations by institutional investors. The data include clienteles and quarterly holdings of investment advisers, whom I classify as "tax-sensitive" if their clients are primarily high net-worth individuals and as "tax-insensitive" if their clients are primarily tax-exempt entities or individuals with tax-deferred accounts. Prior empirical studies attribute abnormal stock return patterns around calendar year-end (the "January effect") to individual investors' tax-loss-selling and to institutional investors' window-dressing. In chapter two, I examine whether investment advisers contribute to the January effect via tax-loss-selling rather than via windowdressing. I find that tax-sensitive advisers' year-end sales of loss stocks (but not those of tax-exempt client advisers whose detailed disclosures to clients provide more incentive to window-dress) are associated with abnormally low (high) returns at the end of December (beginning of January). These results suggest that investment advisers contribute to the January effect via tax-loss-selling rather than via window-dressing. In chapter three, I examine whether tax-sensitive advisers respond to holding period incentives at year-end. Under U.S. tax law, net short-term gains are taxed as ordinary income, while net long-term gains are taxed at a lower rate. Prior studies find little or no response to holding period incentives by individual investors. In contrast, tax-sensitive advisers are more likely to sell stocks with short-term losses the larger the difference between the current short-term loss deduction and what the long-term loss deduction would be. In chapter four, I examine whether, like individual investors, tax-sensitive advisers realize their losses at year-end because they exhibit the "disposition effect," or the tendency to realize gains at a quicker rate than losses, earlier in the year. I compare the likelihood of advisers' realizations of "losers" (stocks the cumulative return of which over the prior nine months is negative) to the likelihood of their realizations of "winners" (stocks the cumulative return of which over the prior nine months is positive) by calendar quarter. Tax-insensitive, but not tax-sensitive, advisers exhibit the disposition effect, suggesting that tax incentives combined with investor sophistication prevent the disposition effect.

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