Investors’ reaction to economic news can be baffling. For example, positive economic announcements, such as an uptick in gross domestic product (GDP), stronger-than-expected earnings by bellwether companies or a drop in unemployment are sometimes followed by a market sell-off. If the market’s negative response to seemingly good news has left you wondering if you are missing something, you are not alone.
Are Markets Rational?
The evolving field of behavioral finance may provide some explanation for seemingly irrational investor responses to good or bad economic news. The discipline seeks to combine behavioral and cognitive psychological theory with conventional economics and finance to understand why people make irrational financial decisions.
Practitioners have identified a set of behavioral biases that may explain apparently unreasonable market movements. These include, but are not limited to:
Fear of Regret and Loss Aversion – The threat of potential disappointment or short-term loss are powerful forces that often inspire second-guessing of portfolio strategies, frequently causing investors to sell winning positions too soon or to hold losing positions too long.
Overconfidence – Self-confidence might make people happier, but it doesn't make them better investors. Overconfident investors tend to overestimate their knowledge, underestimate risks, and exaggerate their ability to control events.
Anchoring – This behavior involves basing decisions – anchoring them – on events or estimates even though they may not reflect relevant long-term trends or statistical probabilities.
Focus on What Matters
A landmark study by the New York Federal Reserve on the effect of economic news on the markets may add additional perspective. “How Economic News Moves Markets”1 suggests that only a handful of economic announcements – nonfarm payroll numbers, GDP advance release and a private sector manufacturing – affect prices in significant and systematic fashion, while most other releases tend to generate erratic or insignificant price responses.
Generally, it’s advisable to avoid trading on news alone, as it is impossible to consistently gauge investor reaction. Also, markets tend to trade on future expectations over the long-term, so keep that in mind as you confront the aftermath of news-related trading volatility. Above all, successful investing requires a long-term perspective. Let me work with you to forge a strategy designed to meet your needs.
1 How Economic News Moves Markets by Leonardo Bartolini, Linda Goldberg, and Adam Sacarny, in Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Current Issues in Economics and Finance, Volume 14, Number 6, August 2008.
Anita Srivastava is a Financial Advisor with the Global Wealth Management Division of Morgan Stanley in Ridgewood, NJ. The information contained in this article is not a solicitation to purchase or sell investments. Any information presented is general in nature and not intended to provide individually tailored investment advice. The strategies and/or investments referenced may not be suitable for all investors as the appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor's individual circumstances and objectives.
Article by Wealth Management Systems Inc. and provided courtesy of Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor.
The author(s) are not employees of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC ("Morgan Stanley"). The opinions expressed by the authors are solely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Morgan Stanley. The information and data in the article or publication has been obtained from sources outside of Morgan Stanley and Morgan Stanley makes no representations or guarantees as to the accuracy or completeness of information or data from sources outside of Morgan Stanley. Neither the information provided nor any opinion expressed constitutes a solicitation by Morgan Stanley with respect to the purchase or sale of any security, investment, strategy or product that may be mentioned.
Morgan Stanley Financial Advisor(s) engaged Ridgewood Moms to feature this article.
Anita Srivastava may only transact business in states where she is registered or excluded or exempted from registration http://www.morganstanleyfa.com/anita.srivastava/ Transacting business, follow-up and individualized responses involving either effecting or attempting to effect transactions in securities, or the rendering of personalized investment advice for compensation, will not be made to persons in states where Anita Srivastava is not registered or excluded or exempt from registration.
© 2015 Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC. Member SIPC.