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Optimal financial naïveté

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Abstract

When agents first become active investors in financial markets, they are relatively inexperienced. Much of the literature focuses on the incentives of presumably sophisticated informed agents to produce information, and not on the nave agents. However, unsophisticated agents are important aspects of financial markets and worth analyzing further. In this paper, we provide a theoretical perspective that addresses the issue of how many nave traders would one expect in a financial market where policy makers try to educate the nave agents. We show that such policy balances the effects of nave trades on corporate investment and liquidity, as well as the monetary cost of increasing financial sophistication. The optimal proportion of nave agents varies with the value of information, the noise in private signals, and the inherent sensitivity of corporate investment to prices. We also show that the policy tool of encouraging insider trading can deter nave investors and thus improve corporate governance and the efficacy of corporate investment. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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