Bridge over ocean
1 July 1995 Financial Analysts Journal Volume 51, Issue 4

Following the Pied Piper: Do Individual Returns Herd around the Market?

  1. William G. Christie
  2. Roger D. Huang

Do equity returns indicate the presence of herd behavior on the part of investors during periods of market stress? To test this proposition, the cross-sectional standard deviation of returns, or dispersion, is used to capture herd behavior. When individual returns herd around the market consensus, dispersions are predicted to be relatively low. In contrast, rational asset pricing models predict an increase in dispersion because individual returns are repelled away from the market return when stocks differ in their sensitivity to market movements. The results for both daily and monthly returns are inconsistent with the presence of herding during periods of large price movements. For example, during extreme down markets, when herding is expected to be most prevalent, the magnitude of the increase in the dispersion of actual returns is mirrored by the increase in the dispersion of predicted returns that are estimated from a rational asset pricing model.

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