Two Essays in Finance: Momentum Loses its Momentum, and Venture Capital Liquidity Pressure

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Virginia Tech

My dissertation consists of two papers, one in the area of investment and the second in the area of corporate finance. The first paper examines robustness of momentum returns in the US stock market over the period 1965 to 2012. We find that momentum profits have become insignificant since the late 1990s partially driven by pronounced increase in the volatility of momentum profits in the last 14 years. Investigations of momentum profits in high and low volatility months address the concerns about unprecedented levels of market volatility in this period rendering momentum strategy unprofitable. Past returns, can no longer explain the cross-sectional variation in stock returns, even following up markets. We suggest three possible explanations for the declining momentum profits that involve uncovering of the anomaly by investors, decline in the risk premium on a macroeconomic factor, growth rate in industrial production in particular and relative improvement in market efficiency.

We study the impact of venture capital funds' (VC) liquidity concerns on the timing and outcome of their portfolio firms' exit events. We find that VC funds approaching the end of their lifespan are more likely to exit during cold exit market conditions. Such late exits are also less likely to be via initial public offerings (IPO). A one standard deviation increase in the age of a VC fund at the time of the exit event is associated with a 5 percentage points decline in the probability of an IPO vs. a trade sale from an unconditional probability of roughly 30%. Several tests indicate that the decline in IPOs with VC fund age is not caused by lower portfolio firm quality. Focusing on the aftermath of IPOs, VC-backed firms experience significantly larger trading volume and lower stock returns around lock-up expirations if they are backed by older funds, and this lock-up effect is amplified if there are multiple VC firms approaching the end of their lifespan. Altogether, our results suggest that the exit process is strongly influenced by VCs' liquidity considerations.

Momentum, market efficiency, market anomaly, venture capital, IPO, lock-up, agency problem