The average returns on low-capitalization stocks are unusually high relative to those on large-capitalization stocks in early January, a phenomenon known as the turn-of-the-year effect. This paper finds that the ratio of stock purchases to sales by individual investors displays a seasonal pattern, with individuals having a below-normal buy/sell ratio in late December and an above-normal ratio in early January. Year-to-year variation in the early January buy/sell ratio explains forty-six percent of the year-to-year variation in the turn-of-the-year effect during 1971–1985.
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