Which Investors Matter for Equity Valuations and Expected Returns?
49 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2019 Last revised: 31 Mar 2020
Date Written: December 17, 2019
To understand why valuation ratios vary across firms and over time, a large literature in asset pricing decomposes these ratios into expected returns and expected growth rates of firm fundamentals. This literature leaves two fundamental questions unanswered: (i) what information do investors attend to in forming their demand beyond prices and (ii) how important are different investors in the price formation process? We use a demand system approach to answer both questions. We first show that a small set of characteristics explains the majority of variation in a panel of firm-level valuation ratios across countries. We then estimate an asset demand system using investor-level holdings data, allowing for flexible substitution patterns within and across countries. We use this framework to measure the relative importance of investors — differentiated by type, size, and active share — for connecting firm characteristics to prices and long-horizon expected returns.
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