COVID-19; Health news; Predictability; Stock returns
This study derives its motivation from the current global pandemic, COVID-19, to evaluate the relevance of health-news trends in the predictability of stock returns. We demonstrate this by using data covering top-20 worst-hit countries, distinctly in terms of reported cases and deaths. The results reveal that the model that incorporates health-news index outperforms the benchmark historical average model, indicating the significance of health news searches as a good predictor of stock returns since the emergence of the pandemic. We also find that accounting for “asymmetry” effect, adjusting for macroeconomic factors and incorporating financial news improve the forecast performance of the health news-based model. These results are consistently robust to data sample (both for the in-sample and out-of-sample forecast periods), outliers and heterogeneity.