Behavioural Finance: Focus on Intrinsic Value

INTRODUCTION

The volume of research in the field of Behavioural Finance has grown over the recent years. The field merges the concepts of finance, economics and psychology to understand the human behaviour in the financial markets, to form winning investment strategies.

THE CONCEPT OF BEHAVIOURAL FINANCE

Behavioural finance is the study of the influence of psychology on the behaviour of financial practitioners and the subsequent effect on markets. Principal objective of an investment is to make money. We usually assume that investors always act in a manner that maximizes their return rationally. The Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH), the central proposition of finance for the last thirty five years rests on assumption of rationality. But it has been proved that people are ruled as much by emotion as by cold logic and selfishness. While the emotions such as fear and greed often play an important role in poor decisions, there are other causes like cognitive biases, heuristics (shortcuts) that take investors to incorrectly analyse new information about a stock or currency and thus overreact or under react. Behavioural Finance is the study of how these mental errors and emotions can cause stocks or currency to be overvalued or undervalued, and to create investment strategies that gives a winning edge over the others investors.

I would like to bring out the behaviour pattern of a rational investor. This rational investor is assumed to act rationally in following ways:

o Makes decisions to maximize the expected utility.

o Fully informed with unbiased information.

o Absence of any distortion of judgement based on emotions.

It is to be kept in mind that risk resides not only in the price movements of dollars, gold, oil, commodities, companies and bonds. It also lurks inside us – in the way we misinterpret information, fool ourselves into thinking we know more than we do, and overreact to market swings. Information is useless if we misinterpret it or let emotions sway our judgement. Human beings are irrational about investing. Correct behaviour patterns are absolutely essential to successful investing – so to be financially successful one has to overcome these tendencies. if we can recognise these destructive urges, we can avoid them. Behavioural Finance combines the disciplines of economics and psychology specifically to study this phenomenon.

THE CONCEPT OF BUBBLES IN STOCK MARKET

A speculative bubble occurs when actions by market participants’ results in stock prices to deviate from their fundamental valuation over a prolonged period of time. Speculative bubbles are difficult to explain by rational trading behaviour, and theories have been put forward to explain market psychology through behavioural finance1. They propose that when significant proportion of trading activity in the market is characterized by positive feedback behaviour, it may result in asset prices to shift away from their fundamental valuation. This price deviation encourages rational investors to trade in the same direction.

Speculative trades are based upon investors’ private information held today, and are designed to provide investors with higher returns in the next period when that private information is fully revealed to the market. This implies a positive correlation in returns as market incorporate the information into prices. Trades due to portfolio rebalancing, or hedging, is not information based, and occurs when a trader may increase (or decrease) his stock holding by buying (or selling) a portion of his stock holding. This will be accomplished by increasing (or decreasing) the stock price to induce the opposite side of the trade.

FOCUS ON INTRINSIC VALUE

What are the implications for corporate managers? It is believed that such market deviations make it even more important for the executives of a company to understand the intrinsic value of its shares. This knowledge allows it to exploit any deviations, if and when they occur, to time the implementation of strategic decisions more successfully. Here are some examples of how corporate managers can take advantage of market deviations:

o Issuing additional share capital when the stock market attaches too high a value to the company’s shares relative to their intrinsic value.

o Repurchasing shares when the market under-prices them relative to their intrinsic value.

o Paying for acquisitions with shares instead of cash when the market overprices them relative to their intrinsic value.

Two things must be kept in mind as regards this aspect of market deviations.

Firstly, these decisions must be grounded in a strong business strategy driven by the goal of creating shareholder value.

Secondly, managers should be cautious of analyses claiming to highlight market deviations. Furthermore, the deviations should be significant in both size and duration. Provided that a company’s share price eventually returns to its intrinsic value in the long run, managers would benefit from using a discounted-cash-flow approach for strategic decisions.

It can thus be summarized that for strategic business decisions, the evidence strongly suggests that the market reflects intrinsic value.

INVESTING IRRATIONALITIES

Often turbulence in the market isn’t linked to any perceivable event but to investor psychology. A fair amount of portfolio losses can be traced back to investor choices and reasons for making them. I would like to point out some of the ways by which investors unthinkingly inflict problems on themselves :

Herding

This is a cardinal sin in investing and this tendency to follow the crowd and depend on the direction of others is exactly how problems in the stock market arise. There are two actions that are caused by herd mentality:

o Panic buying

o Panic selling

Holding Out for a rare treat

Some investors, praying for a reversal for their stocks, hold onto them, other investors, settling for limited profit, sell stock that has great long-term potential. One of the big ironies of the investing world is that most investors are risk averse when chasing gains but become risk lovers when trying to avoid a loss.

If we are shifting our non-risk capital into high-risk investments, we are contradicting every rule of prudence to which the stock market ascribes and asking for further problems.

ISSUES

One of the most important issues in Behavioural Finance is whether the assumptions of investor rationality are realistic or not.

The concept can be explained with the help of an example. Let’s assume that Mr. X invests and manages his portfolio in an efficient market. Here only seconds are available for a response to the news. There are a great number of factors that affect the decision of Mr. X. Further, these factors can affect each other. How can Mr. X draw the right judgements when the information is updated very frequently? Probably Mr. X works on a computer, through out the day, on which a utility function program is installed for his work. Every decision Mr. X is based on the calculation given by his computer. As soon as the portfolio is rebalanced, the computers utility function program analyses new alternatives. This process goes on and on over the course of the day. Obviously, Mr X does not show any joy, when he wins and no panic when he looses. Can a human brain behave like this? We know that a human brain can master only seven pieces of information at any one time.

So, how could one possibly absorb all the relevant information and process it correctly? People use simplifying heuristics (shortcuts) in order to control the complexity of information received. Psychological research has shown that the human brain often uses shortcuts to solve complex problems. These heuristics are rules or strategies for information processing, which help to find a quick, but not necessary optimal, solution. Once the information is simplified to manageable level, people use judgement heuristics. These shortcuts are needed to resolve the decision making as quickly as possible. Heuristics are also used to arrive at a quick judgement, they can, however, also systematically distort judgement in certain situations.

SIMPLIFICATION BIAS

The first step in reducing complexity is to simplify the decision. However it also adds the risk of arriving at a non-rational conclusion, unless one is careful.

MENTAL ACCOUNTING

People focus on one account (say purchase of share x) in particular when weighing things, relationship with other commitments or accounts (say purchase of share y) are usually ignored. I would like to explain this with the help of an illustration. For instance, Company A produces bathing costumes, and company B produces raincoats. Both companies are new, extremely efficient and innovating, so that purchasing shares in these companies would be a profitable proposition. A financial gain, however depends to a large extent on the whether in both cases, Company A will produce huge profits if the weather is fine, while Company B will make a loss, even though this is kept to a minimum, thanks to its efficient management. The situation is reversed in the case of bad weather. With mental accounting, either investment is risky when seen in isolation. But if we take into account the mutual effect of the uncertainty factor, i.e. the weather, then a combination of both shares become a lucrative, and at the same time secure investment.

AVAILABILITY CONSTRAINT

Not everybody has same degree of information. Some people prefer to see business news on CNBC TV 18, NDTV PROFIT. But others may like to see the serials on STAR PLUS. Obviously the first one may have more information, as compared to second.

REPRESENTATIVENESS

This is one of the mental shortcuts that make it hard for investors to correctly analyse new information. It helps the brain organise and quickly process large stock of data, but can cause investors to overreact to old information. For example, if a company is repeatedly giving losses, investors will become disillusioned with this past data, and thus may overreact to past information by ignoring valid signs of recovery. Thus, the stock of the company is undervalued because of this bias.

CHLALLENGES

Under the paradigm of traditional financial economics, decision makers are considered to be rational and utility maximizing. The assumption of rational expectations is simply an assumption – an assumption that could turn out not to be true.

Behavioural Finance has the potential to be a valuable supplement to the traditional financial theories in making investment decisions. The following fundamentals of behavioural finance give us a glimpse of the pitfalls to be avoided. These are the challenges which need to be overcome and addressed.

1. Hubris hypothesis: it is the tendency to be over optimistic. It results from psychological biases. The investor gets swayed by the momentum generated in the markets in recent past.

2. Sheep theory: it is a phenomenon where all the investors are running in the same direction. They follow the herd – not voluntarily, but to avoid being trampled.

3. Loss aversion: it says that investors take more risk when threatened with a loss. Thus mental penalty associated with a given loss is greater than the mental reward from a gain of the same size.

4. Anchoring: this causes investors to under react to new information. This can lead to investors to expect a company’s earning to be in line with historical trends, leading to possible under reaction to trend changes.

5. Framing: this states that the way people behave depends on their way decision problems are framed. Even the same problem framed in different ways can cause people to make different choices.

6. Overconfidence: this is what leads people to think that they know more than they do. It leads investors to overestimate their predictive skills and believe they can time the market.

RELEVANCE TO INDIAN STOCK MARKETS

Behavioural finance holds definite clues and appears apt in the current IPO craze as regards Indian markets are concerned. The herd mentality is evident in the scramble for shares. As the positive information of excess subscriptions comes, more investors enter the bandwagon. When Prices of the stocks start soaring, everyone one is thinking of the same thing: I am going to sell on listing and book the profits. Can money making be so simple? Is life and the financial markets so predictable? One will see investors selling the stocks as soon as they get the allotments. Herd mentality will be at work with people trying to sell faster than the neighbour, thus eroding stock values at a faster rate. Greed thus becomes the graveyard. One needs to understand that there are no shortcuts to earning money. One has to work hard and have patience.

It is believed that perfect application of Behavioural finance can make an Indian investor successful, making fewer mistakes. Even if we learn to identify some common psychological and cognitive errors that plague even the wisest investment professional, it may be enough. To put it in Simple words, economic theory starts with a flawed basic premise that the investor is a rational being who will always act to maximise his financial gain. Yet, we are not rational beings, we are human beings.

In stock markets, behavioural finance can help explain situations such as why we hold on to stocks that are crashing, foolishly sell stocks that are rising, ridiculously overvalue stocks, jump in late and never find our right price to buy and sell stocks.

Let’s take the example of the recent discovery of gas by Reliance industries. The stock starts spurting as everyone starts buying on this news. Newspapers start flashing stories as to the size of such a discovery.

But let us analyse the situation without becoming a prey to mental heuristics. Gas has been discovered but the same needs to be drilled which takes a lot of time and money. What is the quality of the gas? How many wells would be needed for drilling? How much time will it take? How much money would be required and what are the plans to finance the same? How easy it is going to be to extract the same? These are all important and pertinent questions. In this time lag there are so many uncertainties the company will have to go through, before the profits are reaped. However, analysts have started predicting the future profitability of Reliance and on such hopes investors start buying the stock at rising prices.

This is how mental heuristics work when the brain takes a shortcut in processing information and does not process the full information and its implications. Thus behavioural finance has a pivotal role to play in Indian Capital market.

CONCLUSION

Knowing the heuristics shall help the investors to which they are susceptible and this will help them in neutralizing to some extent the distortions in the perception and assimilation of information. This will in turn, help the investor to take a rational decision and get a cutting edge over the other not-so-rational investors.

More research on behavioural finance should take place not only in asset pricing but also in areas like project appraisal & investment decisions and other areas of corporate finance, so that managers can avoid the decision traps. Psychology and irrational behaviour matter on financial markets. Behavioural finance is relevant in many ways. It educates investors about how to avoid biases, designing long and short term strategies to exploit biases; and being aware that decision-makers in financial markets are human beings with biases. We also need to realize that an implicit assumption of behavioural finance is that their findings at individual level are scalable to market level.

Home Improvement Financing

Finding the best services from home improvement financing networks can be a daunting task. Every homeowner would want to take a form of financing that is free or no obligation, no initial credit check, and lesser money worries.

Before starting your home improvement project, make sure, first that you have enough budget to cover the costs by requesting help from home improvement financing programs. There are home improvement financing sites online that may offer the best and affordable service you need.

They might also offer products and services that will help the achievement of a successful project. Rates are at record lows; customers are given a variety of choices in order to finance their improvement project. Home improvement finance will tailor your financing according to your needs. With the following financing options offered:

· Unsecured loans

· Home equity loans

· New first mortgages

· Debt consolidation loans

Home improvement projects generally require flexibility of time and money. There are many home improvement financing companies that can help for your remodeling. The home improvement financing resources has experience with several financing options that have resulted in below-market rate financing tailored to address the needs of sponsoring agencies and target borrowers. Here are Housing Finance Agency Programs to help you with your projects:

Great Minnesota Fix-up Fund (Home Improvement Loan)

· The Great Minnesota Fix-up Fund is a state-wide program that offers loans below market interest rates to homeowners. Fix-up fund was established to improve the basic energy efficiency of the borrower’s home

Home Energy Loan Program

· The Home Energy Loan is also a state-wide program that offers low interest loans to homeowners that want to make energy improvements to their properties.

Community Fix-up Fund

· The Community Fix-up Fund is an expansion of the Great Minnesota Fix-up Fund which offers much higher income limits to homeowners based upon the geographic location of their property.

Home Improvement Financing is a great benefit to customers for a number of reasons.

· Low interest rate financing

· You can complete your project with a local contractor or do it yourself

· Quick and simple loan approval

· Loans available to $50,000+

Among the financing options that were mentioned above; the Home Equity Line of credit is the best program when considering a home improvement project. In this form of financing you will have the credit you need when the need arises and you will make no monthly payments until you draw on it.

A Home Equity Line of Credit is a line of credit that can be used as you need it up to your available credit line. You can use any portion of it at any time and pay it back at any time.

Compared to home equity loans, home equity line of credit’s ideal usage are as follows:

Ongoing Expenses:

- Home improvements

- Medical expenses

- Small business expenses

The interest rate is available and is tied to the prime rate. Its interest may be tax-deductible. It is probably a good choice to acquire the Home Equity Line for Credit if you potentially have multiple needs and if you prefer flexible payment options that have room to adjust.

Home improvement financing is a national loan network that helps homeowners who need financing for home improvement projects. This form of networks can facilitate an easier processing of the approval for your home improvement financing.

If you are anxious about getting your home project done in time, you can avail help from the home improvement financing networks in just a few clicks in the Internet.

Commercial Vehicle Finance Loans

Commercial vehicle finance loans are something that many businesses look into for a variety of reasons. Office based jobs will sometimes give company vehicles to particular employees as an added benefit. This is especially true if there is an outside sales staff or a need for the employees to make visits to clients outside of their base of operations. Instead of utilizing the employee’s personal vehicle and compensating for mileage, the company will supply a company vehicle and apply for commercial vehicle finance loans to stock the employees with company cars. This is sometimes better for the image of the company, can help keep costs down and assist with branding. Commercial vehicle finance loans are also used when purchasing vehicles for delivery of freight. Any business that deals with the shipping and delivery of wares should look into commercial vehicle finance loans.

A company with an upscale image may purchase vehicles for employees that portray a particular image. A commercial vehicle finance loan can help accommodate this need by allowing the company to purchase several high end vehicles for company use. Because maintenance and mileage on an employee’s individual car can be expensive, the company can regulate those costs by supplying a company vehicle. The commercial vehicle finance loan amount will be known and it will be easier to budget for that expense. Branding can also be used when purchasing cars through a commercial vehicle finance loan. Often vehicles are branded with the logo and a possible slogan so those who are traveling and see the vehicle will get brand recognition. The use of a commercial vehicle finance loan to purchase these types of vehicles will often help increase sales revenue by increased exposure to the brand name.

Commercial vehicle finance loans are very similar to personal loans. Often there is a need for a down payment and then monthly payments are made on the note for the total cost of the loan. The advantage of the commercial vehicle finance loan is that companies can make a larger loan with the assets as collateral. This way, larger items such as trucks can be purchased and many vehicles can be purchased at once. Commercial vehicle finance loans are available for outright purchases as well as leases. Commercial vehicle finance loans used for leasing vehicles are typically used by companies that want to keep newer vehicles and trade them in every few years. Using a commercial vehicle finance loan for sale or lease of vehicles to be used in business will help companies keep a set amount of money budgeted yet allow the company to have a fleet of cars or trucks at their disposal.

Commercial vehicle finance loans are available through private lenders, banks and dealerships. As with any loan, commercial vehicle finance loans should be researched to get the best deal. The finance officer of the company should sit down with bank officers at banks and lending institutions to understand what the terms of the commercial vehicle finance loan are and what the repayment options are before settling on one.

Best Car Finance Deal

Cars are not simply a luxury but today have become a necessity in everyday life. Not merely a means of transportation, a good car is a good investment both for you and your family. Do you buy a new car or go for a secondhand one? Where do you buy? How much are you willing to fork over for that car that will fulfill your dreams? Sometimes you spend an unaccountably long time just looking for the car you want and neglect to take into consideration the actual effect it will have on your finances.

Hunting for a car is not enough – it is when you have found the best car finance deal that the search is effectively over. Now anything remotely financial is not an endearing subject, but it is a must when purchasing a car. Buying a car is the second largest single purchase a person makes. Most buyers end up borrowing money and some end up in staggering debt because of this. Lack of awareness of financial options is literally throwing money down the drain. So unless you would not get more for your money, the best advice is to move on to other deals.

Car financial deals are classified into three categories: Car Finance by Make, Car Finance by Body Style and Car Finance by Class. Car finance by Make is the brand of the car. Are you sure you want this Volvo, or maybe the Porsche? Convertibles, sedans and the like fall under Body Style and car finance by Class has the likes of luxury cars, sports cars and so on. Unless you are planning to pay in cash, you will have to apply for a car loan. Negotiations with the dealership will be long and tiring because you need to acquire the lowest possible price, but it is also important to pay attention to the interest rates. Research the latest about auto finance incentives and deals – this could cause a sizable saving in your new car purchase.

Car buyers have several options when it comes to loans and this could spell the difference between the best deals and the worst. Personal loans from an independent lender are generally a much cheaper way to borrow the money to buy a car. Shop around for car deals. Those who rely on the first deal proposed to them by their car salesman; end up paying soaring interest rates. Car finance offered in dealerships generally has higher interest rates.

Car dealerships consistently mark up the loan cost without informing the customer. It would have been illegal had you been financing a home, but not so when it’s a car. Ignorance may be bliss, but this time it could burn you. If you have no idea about it or do not inquire into it, the dealerships’ salesmen and the finance executives would not be the ones to tell you. The buyer of the car doesn’t have to finance the deal through the dealerships alone. He can head to a credit union or to a bank and shop around.