Individual Investor Sentiment and Stock Returns
45 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2008
Date Written: September 2004
This paper investigates a unique dataset that enables us to determine the aggregate buy and sell volume of individual investors for a large cross-section of NYSE stocks. We find that individuals trade as if they are contrarians, and that the stocks that individuals buy exhibit positive excess returns in the following month. These patterns are consistent with the idea that risk-averse individuals provide liquidity to meet institutional demand for immediacy. We further examine the relation between individual investor sentiment and short-horizon (weekly) return reversals that have been documented in the literature. Our results reveal that individual investor sentiment predicts future returns, and that the information content of investor sentiment is distinct from that of past returns or past volume. Furthermore, the trading of individuals predicts weekly returns in the post-2000 era for stocks of all sizes, while past return seems to have lost its predictive power for all but small stocks over the same time period. Lastly, we note that there is very little cross-sectional correlation of our individual sentiment measure across the stocks in our sample.
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