York study says sunlight sets the crowd’s mood on stocks and bonds

Here’s another scapegoat to blame for your financial losses: a lack of sunlight, wrote The Globe and Mail Dec. 12. University researchers in Toronto say they have found that bond and stock markets move in conjunction with the seasons, partly because some market participants are affected by seasonal affective disorder.

Mark Kamstra, a professor in York University’s Schulich School of Business, said his latest studies of the bond market support earlier research, conducted with two colleagues, that showed seasonal movements in stock trading. He said that original study – which contrasted stock-trading patterns in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres – "really irritated a lot of people" when it was published in 2003, so more research was planned to examine the findings.

In the latest study, the team analyzed 50 years of returns from US Treasury bonds, and found that underlying seasonal movements were not related to business cycles or other macroeconomic factors. There is a very persistent pattern in bond returns, Kamstra said. "It’s quite a remarkable peak in September and October, and a decline right through to the late winter and early spring."

His explanation is that people with SAD alter their investment decisions when they get the first symptoms, selling equities and buying bonds to cut risk. By the spring, when SAD disappears, the trend has reversed.

This isn’t simply irrational behaviour, Kamstra said. "It’s behavioural finance, in the sense that it has to do with human emotion."

Fallout seen over isotope gap

Canada’s medical isotope crisis may be a one-off event, but academic experts say the Ottawa-based company that dominates the world market and the federal Crown corporation it depends on for supply have put their long-term futures at risk, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 12.

The Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.’s involvement in the crisis has some observers questioning whether the company can be relied on to supply new nuclear reactors for Ontario’s power market, considered a crucial international showcase for its next-generation Advanced Candu Reactor.

"If they can’t deliver relatively straight-forward isotope production reactors, then what’s the implication in terms of delivering a larger, much more powerful power reactor for Ontario?" said Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies.

Have basement, not moving

Martin Turcotte, a researcher with Statistics Canada, found people who leave home in their late teens have a better chance of affording a home in their 30s than those who cling to their parents’ financial help too long wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 12. Turcotte says many kids living with their parents in their mid to late 20s have already left home, only to move back. He calls them "boomerang kids."

Nicole Saltz, 21, left home when she was 18 for film studies at York University. But two years later, paying tuition, rent and utility bills didn’t make any sense to her, and she has since moved back home. Saltz says becoming a homeowner is not on her radar screen, but getting out on her own again before she’s 25 certainly is. "There’s something wrong when kids leave early, like at 16. But when you’re still home when you’re 28, there’s something wrong too."

On air

  • Richard Weisman, professor in the Law & Society Program in York’s Faculty of Arts and at Glendon, spoke about how admission of remorse can affect criminal sentencing, on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning”, Dec. 11.
  • Roberto Perin, history professor in York’s Faculty of Arts and at Glendon, and Osgoode alumna Ausma Khan (PhD ’04), editor of Muslim Girl Magazine, spoke about religious extremism and domestic violence in the homes of Canadian immigrants, on CBC-TV Dec. 11.