A Tough Act to Follow: Contrast Effects in Financial Markets

A Tough Act to Follow: Contrast Effects in Financial Markets

  • SAMUEL M. HARTZMARK
  • KELLY SHUE

Article first published online: 24th May 2018 DOI: 10.1111/jofi.12685

Abstract


A contrast effect occurs when the value of a previously observed signal inversely biases perception of the next signal. We present the first evidence that contrast effects can distort prices in sophisticated and liquid markets. Investors mistakenly perceive earnings news today as more impressive if yesterday's earnings surprise was bad and less impressive if yesterday's surprise was good. A unique advantage of our financial setting is that we can identify contrast effects as an error in perceptions rather than expectations. Finally, we show that our results cannot be explained by an alternative explanation involving information transmission from previous earnings announcements.

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