Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers
 

Title

Five Facts About Beliefs and Portfolios

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version

8-5-2019

Abstract

We administer a newly-designed survey to a large panel of retail investors who have substantial wealth invested in financial markets. The survey elicits beliefs that are crucial for macroeconomics and finance, and matches respondents with administrative data on their portfolio composition and their trading activity. We establish five facts in this data: (1) Beliefs are reflected in portfolio allocations. The sensitivity of portfolios to beliefs is small on average, but varies significantly with investor wealth, attention, trading frequency, and confidence. (2) It is hard to predict when investors trade, but conditional on trading, belief changes affect both the direction and the magnitude of trades. (3) Beliefs are mostly characterized by large and persistent individual heterogeneity; demographic characteristics explain only a small part of why some individuals are optimistic and some are pessimistic. (4) Investors who expect higher cash flow growth also expect higher returns and lower long-term price-dividend ratios. (5) Expected returns and the subjective probability of rare disasters are negatively related, both within and across investors. These five facts challenge the rational expectation framework for macro-finance, and provide important guidance for the design of behavioral models.

Keywords

surveys, expectations, sentiment, behavioral finance, discount rates, rare disasters

JEL Code

G11, G12, R30

Working Paper Number

WP2019-7

Copyright/Permission Statement

All findings, interpretations, and conclusions of this paper represent the views of the author(s) and not those of the Wharton School or the Pension Research Council. © 2019 Pension Research Council of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. All rights reserved.

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Date Posted: 06 August 2019