Understanding random market behaviour


 By Somali K Chakrabarti

For an investor, the pain of selling a stock at a loss far exceeds the pleasure of selling the stock at an equal amount of gain.

Strange but true!

Such behavioral aspects of investing and many more are brought out in the study of behavioral finance, that was introduced in the late 1980s, owing to anomalies in stock price prediction by the two main existing theories of academic finance, i.e. Modern Portfolio Theory’ and ‘Efficient Market Hypothesis’.

According to the ‘Efficient Market Theory’, put forth by Eugene Fama, financial markets are believed to be efficient and investors are understood to make rational decisions. Further, market participants are supposed to be sophisticated, informed and known to act only on available information. Since market participants are believed to have equal access to information, it is implied that stock prices always reflect the best information about fundamental values of the stocks. According to the efficient market theory and Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) the price of a stock is the Present Value (PV) of all the entire future earnings of the company i.e. the future dividend paid by the company. 

The ‘Modern Portfolio Theory’ pioneered by Harry Markowitz suggested that an investor can maximise returns by holding a diversified portfolio of assets with different levels of risk.

 However stock prices were found to exhibit more volatility than efficient market hypothesis could explain.   Read more

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Networking is establishing and maintaining informal relationships with people whose acquaintance or friendship could bring advantages such as job or business opportunities. Professional networking is a critical skill that is required for succeeding at workplace or in business. Building a strong professional network doesn’t happen overnight; these relationships have to be cultivated over time. Read more

Diversification Dilemma


Diversification has given way to focus in developed countries like the United States and the United Kingdom,  and has often been correlated with lower performance. In contrast, diversified business groups have been hugely successful in most emerging markets, particularly in Asia.

Since the mid 1980s, strategists in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom have mostly advocated the use of focused strategies for businesses and have advised companies to ‘stick to their knitting’. Many diversified conglomerates in these advanced economies have been dismantled since 1980s to focus on one or a few core businesses.

A look at the motives with which companies diversify reveals some of the reasons why diversification by conglomerates yields benefits in the developing markets as against the discount associated with diversified conglomerates in the developed economies.

Growth is a primary motive for diversification

However growth does not always translate into higher profitability. Since management status and power is correlated more closely with the size of assets under management, management (the ‘agent’) may have the incentive to diversify for pursuing growth in preference to profitability, which is not in the best interest of shareholders.

Reducing risk

Having different businesses in their portfolio can potentially balance differences in the industry cycles and thus it increases the stability of a company. But the value of diversification advantage to the company may be offset by the high transaction cost associated with acquisition. Moreover shareholders can themselves reduce the risk of their portfolio by holding diversified portfolios. This is another argument against diversification in the developed economies.

Diversify or not

Corporate parenting advantage

Effective corporate management is given as the reason for existence and success of diversified conglomerates in the developing markets. The differences in the institutional context—i.e. a country’s capital markets, labour markets, consumer awareness, regulatory and legal system  that influences business practices and ethics,  infrastructure etc favours the presence of diversified conglomerates in developing countries.


Corporate advantage due to diversification exists if the portfolio performance is greater than sum of performances of individual businesses. In the developing economies, diversified conglomerates wield considerable economic and political clout. Being a part of a diversified group increases the overall stability of the company’s cash flow.

Thus, diversification is context specific. “Stick to your knitting” may not be the best recommendation for firms in high-growth markets or regions that have strong corporate advantages.

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