According to the recent TIM (Trade Ideas Monitor) report for August 20th, the TIM Sentiment Index (TSI) in North America was 50.37, down 1.76 points, right near the critical 50 mark (see last post, and previous post and the youDevise website for additional information on the TIM report). The TSI Worldwide Index was down marginally. Total new long ideas as a percentage of all new ideas sent to investment managers by way of the TIM decreased 3.15 points to 62.53%.

As for individual securities in the U.S. and North America, Medidata Solutions (MDSO), BJ's Wholesale Club (BJ), and Alcoa (AA) were stocks with long broker sentiment, while First Solar (FSLR), Brocade Communications (BRCD), and Las Vegas Sands (LVS) had short broker sentiment. In general, the materials, telecommunication services, and energy sectors had long broker sentiment, while the consumer staples, industrials, and consumer discretionary sectors had short broker sentiment.

The tremendous growth of the Chinese economy and stock market has many wondering how long it will take before China once again regains it spot as the top economy (The Business Insider). When looking at purchasing power parity, some analysts are expecting that China will regain the crown as the top economy by 2015, after 125 years of the U.S. holding the number one spot. Yet for China and any other global market or economy to be a long-term destination for investment, further transparency and disclosure will no doubt be necessary. Just yesterday I discussed some recent academic research that found investors tend to trade foreign equities more often than their domestic counterparts (Bull Bear Trader). In short, the authors of the study found that the level of trading is higher for stocks in markets for which there are weaker investor protections, or for markets that have lower disclosure standards. The portfolio turnover or churn rate was higher as the quality of information and level of familiarity decreased.

This information appears to not be lost on some international markets. Wealth Briefing Asia reports that as investor look across the globe for alternative investments, they will demand more in-depth information on investment products in the wake of the recent financial crisis. To meet this need, services are already being offered to help investors discover transparent managers, and regulatory bodies are increasing requirements for transparency within various markets. Both the demand and the will seem to be in place, yet more will have to be done, with such transparency continuing down to the company level as investor seek assurances regarding future investments. This is happening in Japan, where after two decades of poor returns, Japanese investors are beginning to challenge management teams that are not delivering for shareholders (Financial Times).

Therefore, as investors continue to look for alternative investments and ways to diversify globally, international markets will need to increase transparency as the economic links between the U.S., China, Japan, Europe, Brazil, India, and Russia, among others, continue to grow. In doing so, markets will be able to lower equity turnover rates (Bull Bear Trader), thereby reducing volatility and allowing them to attract the type of long-term investment and capital necessary to grow their markets. Whether China continues to rises to the level of market leadership is still to be seen, but even if the U.S. retains it top position, a more transparent market in China and elsewhere will help all markets given that full decoupling has not happen, and will most likely never fully occur in the new global market place.

There has been significant research in the past looking at the phenomenon of "home bias," or investing a larger portion of your wealth in a domestic market, despite the benefits of increasing international diversification. Less research has been done on how these home bias investors rebalance between domestic and foreign exposure. Previous research has also produced somewhat conflicting data regarding foreign equity turnover rates, ranking them from having only slightly faster levels of turnover, to foreign equity turnover rates 10 times greater domestic equity turnover rates - although in many cases the data samples were limited to just a handful of countries.

Recent research by Kalok Chan and Vicentiu Covrig examined portfolio rebalancing as measured by the churn rate of mutual funds from 29 different domestic countries - with investments across 48 foreign countries (see their paper, "What Determines Mutual Funds' Trading in Foreign Stocks?"). The results were based on annual holdings of stocks from the years 1999-2004, with churn rates based on changes of equity holdings in consecutive years. Based on past research, it was not surprising that their results found that the level of stock trading is more active for the stocks of companies in less developed countries. In fact, the trading of mutual funds in foreign stocks was higher than for domestic stocks in 24 out of 29 countries. When digging deeper to determine the reasons for the increased turnover rates, the authors found that the level of trading is higher for stocks in markets for which there are weaker investor protections, or for markets that have lower disclosure standards. In general, the churn rate was higher as the quality of information and level of familiarity decreased. The authors found these results to:

".... be consistent with the hypothesis that the investors rebalance more often the holdings of stocks about which they know less and are less familiar with."
As might also be expected, the churn rate was higher in a foreign market if the market had performed well, with the rate increasing as the level of familiarity decreases. Similar to other markets, it seems that investors are likely to take profits after a market has run-up, and are much more likely to do so if the market is foreign, less transparent, and has a lower level of familiarity.