Asymmetric Information in Emerging Markets: Lessons From China
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Asymmetric information has crucial implications for various market participants in financial markets, including investors (local and foreign), firms, and governments. The information asymmetry problem is especially severe in emerging markets. My dissertation attempts to address a few information-related questions that interest both academicians and practitioners. The first study adds some new evidence to the on-going debate of whether local or foreign investors are better informed. I offer a new perspective to the issue by examining two market segments within one country but separated by the relevance of local knowledge measured by state ownership. I find that state ownership has a dramatic asymmetric effect on local and foreign institutional investors in China’s stock market. Local (foreign) institutional investors have an informational advantage in state-owned enterprises (SOEs), while foreign institutional investors have an informational advantage in non-state-owned enterprises (non-SOEs). Moreover, the informational advantage of local institutional investors is less evident in SOEs with high board independence and better audit quality. Building on these results, the second study further uses local and foreign institutional ownership as a measure of private information and examines whether firm-specific return volatility proxies for price informativeness. I find firm-specific return volatility is positively related to private information. Therefore the results support the notion that firm-specific return volatility measures the rate of private information impounded into stock prices. My research contributes to the literature in at least four important ways. My findings reconcile the two opposing views on local and foreign investors in the literature and suggest that the informational advantages of local and foreign investors vary with the relevance of local knowledge. Examining only the whole market in past research masks important variation in the relative advantages of local and foreign investors in market segments within a country. My study also suggests that taking into account firm-level characteristics, especially corporate governance measures, can enhance our understanding of the behavior of institutional investors. Additionally I provide some of the first evidence to show that local political institutions can create barriers faced by international investors. Finally, my research confirms the merit of firm-specific return volatility as a measure of price informativeness. Together, these studies provide new insights into research on asymmetric information in emerging markets and have important implications for local and foreign investors, firms, and governments.