- Recovering Investor Expectations from Demand for Index Funds
We use a revealed-preference approach to estimate investor expectations of stock market returns. Using data on demand for index funds that follow the S&P 500, we develop and estimate a model of investor choice to flexibly recover the time-varying distribution of expected returns. Despite the fact that they are generated from a different method (realized choices) and a different population, our quarterly estimates of investor expectations are positively and significantly correlated with the leading surveys used to measure stock market expectations. Our estimates suggest that investor expectations are heterogeneous, extrapolative, and persistent. Following a downturn, investors become more pessimistic on average, but there is also an increase in disagreement among participating investors. Our analysis is facilitated by the prevalence of “leveraged” funds, i.e., funds that provide the investor with a menu over leverage. The menu of choices allows us to separately estimate expectations and risk aversion. We estimate that the availability of these funds provides investors with significant (ex ante) consumer surplus.