We argue that noisy aggregation of dispersed information provides a unified explanation for several prominent cross-sectional return anomalies such as returns to skewness, returns to disagreement and corporate credit spreads. We characterize asset returns with noisy information aggregation by means of a risk-neutral probability measure that features excess weight on tail risks, and link the latter to observable moments of earnings forecasts, in particular forecast dispersion and accuracy. We calibrate our model to match these moments and show that it accounts for a large fraction of the empirical return premia. We further develop asset pricing tools for noisy information aggregation models that do not impose strong parametric restrictions on economic primitives such as preferences, information, or return distributions.
We analyze the consequences of noisy information aggregation for investment. Market imperfections create endogenous rents that cause overinvestment in upside risks and underinvestment in downside risks. In partial equilibrium, these inefficiencies are particularly severe if upside risks are coupled with easy scalability of investment. In general equilibrium, the shareholders' collective attempts to boost value of individual rms leads to a novel externality operating through price that amplifies investment distortions with downside risks but o sets distortions with upside risks.