Article | Review of Financial Studies | 2014

The Growth and Limits of Arbitrage: Evidence from Short Interest

by Samuel G. Hanson and Adi Sunderam

Abstract

We develop a novel methodology to infer the amount of capital allocated to quantitative equity arbitrage strategies. Using this methodology, which exploits time-variation in the cross section of short interest, we document that the amount of capital devoted to value and momentum strategies has grown significantly since the late 1980s. We provide evidence that this increase in capital has resulted in lower strategy returns. However, consistent with theories of limited arbitrage, we show that strategy-level capital flows are influenced by past strategy returns as well as strategy return volatility, and that arbitrage capital is most limited during times when strategies perform best. This suggests that the growth of arbitrage capital may not completely eliminate returns to these strategies.

Keywords: Strategy; Financial Instruments; Capital Markets; Investment;

Citation:

Hanson, Samuel G., and Adi Sunderam. "The Growth and Limits of Arbitrage: Evidence from Short Interest." Review of Financial Studies 27, no. 4 (April 2014): 1238–1286. (Winner of the RFS Rising Scholar Prize 2014. Internet Appendix Here.)