The Stock Market and Investment: Is the Market a Sideshow?
Posted: 14 Feb 2014
Date Written: June 7, 1989
Recent events and research findings increasingly suggest that the stock market is not driven solely by news about fundamentals. There seem to be good theoretical as well as empirical reasons to believe that investor sentiment, also referred to as fads and fashions, affects stock prices. By investor sentiment we mean beliefs held by some investors that cannot be rationally justified. Such investors are sometimes referred to as noise traders. To affect prices, these less-than-rational beliefs have to be correlated across noise traders, otherwise trades based on mistaken judgments would cancel out. When investor sentiment affects the demand of enough investors, security prices diverge from fundamental values.
The debates over market efficiency, exciting as they are, would not be important if the stock market did not affect real economic activity. If the stock market were a sideshow, market inefficiencies would merely redistribute wealth between smart investors and noise traders. But if the stock market influences real economic activity, then the investor sentiment that affects stock prices could also indirectly affect real activity.
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