Return Dispersion and Fund Performance: Australia – The Land of Opportunity?

50 Pages Posted: 10 May 2019 Last revised: 21 Jan 2020

See all articles by Ying Cao

Ying Cao

Australian National University (ANU) - College of Business and Economics

Anna Helen von Reibnitz

Australian National University (ANU); Financial Research Network (FIRN)

Geoff Warren

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics

Date Written: January 20, 2020

Abstract

We examine the relation between cross-sectional stock return dispersion and active fund performance in Australia, drawing on the concept that higher return dispersion provides greater opportunity for skilled managers to generate value. In contrast with findings using US data that outperformance occurs only for the most active funds and in the highest return dispersion environments, Australian data show that active funds earn positive returns when return dispersion is in the moderate-to-high range. We also find meaningful differences between large-cap funds, where outperformance is modest and significant only for the most active funds, and small-cap funds, where active returns are larger in magnitude and do not depend greatly on fund activeness. Applying a switching strategy between active funds and passive investment reveals that investors would be advantaged by retaining exposure to active funds in Australia in all but low return dispersion months in the absence of buy-sell spreads. However, imposing spreads eliminates the added value from switching, concluding in favour of maintaining an active exposure regardless of the dispersion environment.

Keywords: mutual funds, return dispersion, cross-sectional volatility, active management

JEL Classification: G11, G14, G23

Suggested Citation

Cao, Ying and von Reibnitz, Anna Helen and Warren, Geoffrey J., Return Dispersion and Fund Performance: Australia – The Land of Opportunity? (January 20, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3372657 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3372657

Ying Cao

Australian National University (ANU) - College of Business and Economics ( email )

Canberra
Australia

Anna Helen Von Reibnitz

Australian National University (ANU) ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 2601
Australia

Financial Research Network (FIRN)

C/- University of Queensland Business School
St Lucia, 4071 Brisbane
Queensland
Australia

Geoffrey J. Warren (Contact Author)

Australian National University (ANU) - Research School of Finance, Actuarial Studies and Statistics ( email )

CBE Building 26C
Kingsley Sreet, Acton
Canberra, ACT 0200
Australia

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