NBER Working Paper No. 27380
Investors' perception of performance is biased because the relevant measure, returns, is rarely displayed. Major indices ignore dividends thereby underreporting market performance. Newspapers are more pessimistic on ex-dividend days, consistent with mistaking the index for returns. Market betas should track returns, but track prices more than dividends, creating predictable returns. Mutual funds receive inflows for “beating the S&P 500,” price index based on net asset value (also not a return). Investors extrapolate market indices, not returns, when forming annual performance expectations. Displaying returns by default would ameliorate these issues, which arise despite high attention and agreement on the appropriate measure.
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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w27380