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Essays in Financial Economics

  • Author(s): Shabani, Reza
  • Advisor(s): Szeidl, Adam
  • et al.

This dissertation is comprised of two chapters, each of which contributes to the field of financial economics, particularly in the areas of behavioral and household finance.

"Corporate News, Asset Prices, and the Media" examines investor reaction to stale information using a novel data set containing a time-stamped transcript of the financial news network CNBC. I measure changes in stock price and trading volume at the precise time that a company is mentioned on CNBC in the 24 hours following a corporate news event, and find strong evidence that some investors react to stale news. There is a significant increase in stock price at the precise time that a company is mentioned on CNBC following a positive news event. Surprisingly, there is also a significant increase in stock price at the precise time that a company is mentioned on CNBC following a negative news event. This puzzle is not explained using observable differences between positive and negative news events or their subsequent mentions. Evidence using cross-sectional variation in the number of positive and negative words suggests that media attention can inflate asset prices in the presence of short-sale constraints as investors with the most optimistic valuations are able to buy while those with the most pessimistic valuations are unable to sell short.

"Outstanding Debt and the Household Portfolio," co-authored with my classmate Thomas A. Becker, alters a simple portfolio choice model to allow households to retire outstanding debt and realize a risk-free rate of return equal to the interest rate on that debt. Using the Survey of Consumer Finances we find that households with mortgage debt are 10 percent less likely to own stocks and 37 percent less likely to own bonds compared to similar households with no outstanding mortgage debt. To show that our results are not driven by irrational behavior amongst a subset of households, we construct two proxy variables for financial naivete. Finally we calculate the costs of non-optimal investment decisions in the presence of various forms of household debt including mortgages, home equity loans and credit card debt. We find that 26 percent of households should forego equity market participation on account of the high interest rates that they pay on their debt.

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