The purpose of this paper is to propose a novel and new direct measurement of small investor sentiment in the equity market. The sentiment is based on the individual investors’ internet search activity.
The author measures unexpected changes in the small investor sentiment with AR (1) process, where the residuals capture the unexpected changes in small investor sentiment. The author employs vector autoregressive, Granger causality and linear regression models to estimate the association between the unexpected changes in small investor sentiment and future equity market returns.
An unexpected increase in the search popularity of the term bear market is negatively associated with the following week’s equity market returns. An unexpected increase in the spread (the difference in popularities between a bull market and a bear market) is positively associated with the following week’s equity market returns. The author finds that these effects are stronger for small-sized companies.
By author’s knowledge, the paper is the first that measures the small investor sentiment that is based on the internet search activity for keywords used in the American Association of Individual Investor’s (AAII) survey questions. The paper proposes an alternative small investor sentiment measure that captures the changes in small investor sentiment in more timely fashion than the AAII survey.
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