Comatose Markets: What if Liquidity is Not the Norm?
73 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2010 Last revised: 11 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 23, 2010
Much of financial theory and practice is built on the presumption that markets are liquid. In a liquid market, you should be able to buy or sell any asset, in any quantity, at the prevailing market price and with no transactions costs. Using that definition, no asset is completely liquid and there are wide variations in liquidity across asset classes, across assets within each asset class, and across investors. After presenting evidence to back up this proposition and recognizing that investors care about and price in illiquidity, we evaluate how introducing illiquidity into the decision process not only alters portfolio composition but has a divergent impact on investors with different time horizons and investment strategies. The presence and pricing in of liquidity opens up profitable opportunities for two classes of investors: long-term investors who care about less about liquidity than the rest of the market (liquidity arbitrageurs) and investors who can time shifts in market liquidity (liquidity timers). In illiquid markets, firms will also be more sparing in their use of debt, will pay higher dividends, will buy back less stock and will accumulate more cash.
Keywords: liquidity, illiquidity, marketability, transactions costs, trading halts
JEL Classification: G11, G12, G31, G32, G35
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation