Is Home Country Bias a Mistake? | Summary and Q&A

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February 21, 2024
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Ben Felix
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Is Home Country Bias a Mistake?

TL;DR

Home country bias in investment portfolios can be beneficial in moderation, offering advantages such as lower fees, favorable tax treatment, protection against local market risks, and psychological comfort.

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Key Insights

  • đŸĢĩ Home country bias is a widespread phenomenon among investors, despite it being viewed as a deviation from optimal portfolio construction based on market capitalization weights.
  • 🧑‍🏭 The capital asset pricing model does not consider real-world factors such as costs, taxes, and the interaction between a portfolio and an investor's specific country.
  • 🙃 Favorable costs and taxes associated with owning domestic stocks can explain some of the observed home country bias.
  • 👋 Home country bias can offer protection against changes in the prices of local goods and the potential mistreatment of foreign investors during times of crisis.
  • 🏍ī¸ Data from a study suggests that a 35% allocation to domestic country stocks has been optimal over the full life cycle of saving for retirement in developed markets.
  • 👨‍đŸ”Ŧ Vanguard's research and a separate analysis of Canadian dollar real returns also support an optimal home country allocation of around 30% to 40% for Canadian investors.
  • 🛩ī¸ Small market size does not necessarily lead to lower realized returns, as the stock returns of smaller countries tend to be higher than larger ones.
  • ↩ī¸ Economic growth and realized stock returns are not closely related, and diversification globally helps mitigate the risks associated with country-specific economic prospects.
  • ↩ī¸ The number of companies in a country's market does not have a significant impact on the realized returns of country indexes, challenging the notion that a small market cannot deliver reliable returns.

Transcript

international diversification is theoretically and empirically important but investors all over the world exhibit a home country bias in their portfolios they tend to overweight the stocks in their home country relative to their country's market capitalization weight for example Canada makes up around 3% of the global market but Canadians tend to a... Read More

Questions & Answers

Q: Why do investors exhibit a home country bias in their portfolios?

Investors exhibit a home country bias due to various factors. This bias can be explained by lower costs and taxes associated with owning domestic stocks, protection against local market risks, and a psychological preference for investing in one's home country.

Q: Does the capital asset pricing model adequately reflect investors' real-world considerations?

No, the capital asset pricing model makes several assumptions that do not reflect the real world, such as ignoring costs, taxes, and the effect of a portfolio on everyday expenses. These factors can influence investors' decisions and contribute to home country bias.

Q: What are the risks associated with international diversification?

International diversification carries the risk of market closures, foreign exchange restrictions, and potential expropriation of foreign investors' assets during times of crisis. These risks can be avoided by investing in domestic stocks.

Q: What does empirical evidence suggest about the optimal home country allocation in investment portfolios?

Empirical evidence suggests that a home country allocation of around 35% has historically improved risk-adjusted returns and life cycle outcomes for investors in developed markets. Lower domestic allocations, representing a home bias for investors outside of the US, have also been beneficial compared to having no home country bias.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Home country bias is the tendency of investors to overweight the stocks in their home country relative to their country's market capitalization weight. For example, Canadians allocate more than 50% of their portfolios to Canadian stocks, despite Canada making up only around 3% of the global market.

  • The capital asset pricing model suggests that the optimal portfolio for all investors is one that is market capitalization weighted. However, investors around the world consistently exhibit a home country bias, which is known as the home bias puzzle.

  • There are several reasons why home country bias can be a good thing in moderation. These include lower costs and taxes associated with owning domestic stocks, protection against changes in the prices of local goods, and avoiding potential mistreatment of foreign investors during times of crisis.

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