The Boats that Did Not Sail: Asset Price Volatility and Market Efficiency in a Natural Experiment

The Boats that Did Not Sail: Asset Price Volatility and Market Efficiency in a Natural Experiment

Peter Koudijs 

Stanford GSB
February 2013
NBER Working Paper No. w18831

Financial markets are thought to be inefficient when they move too much relative to the arrival of information. How big is this inefficiency? In today’s markets, this is difficult to determine because the arrival of information is hard to identify. In this paper, I present a natural experiment from history in which the flow of information was regularly interrupted for exogenous reasons. This allows me to study volatility in the absence of news, and to identify the degree of inefficiency. During the 18th century a number of English securities were traded on the Amsterdam exchange. Relevant information from England reached Amsterdam on mail boats. I reconstruct their arrival dates. When no mail boats arrived, virtually no other relevant information reached the Amsterdam market. I measure price volatility during periods with and without news. Even in the absence of new information, security prices moved significantly. Between 50 and 75% of overall volatility did not reflect the arrival of news. A significant fraction of this residual is driven by the incorporation of private information into prices. Once this is taken into account, 20 to 50% of the overall return variance is unexplained by information. This suggests that the Amsterdam market moved more than can be explained by the arrival of news but that the majority of price movements was still the result of efficient price discovery.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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