Investing Research Articles

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Extended Simple Momentum Strategy Test of TSP Funds/Proxies

A subscriber asked about extending “Simple Momentum Strategy Applied to TSP Funds” back in time to 1988. That test employs the following five funds all available to U.S. federal government employees via the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) starting in January 2001:

G Fund: Government Securities Investment Fund (G)
F Fund: Fixed Income Index Investment Fund (F)
C Fund: Common Stock Index Investment Fund (C)
S Fund: Small Cap Stock Index Investment Fund (S)
I Fund: International Stock Index Investment Fund (I)

S Fund and I Fund data limit the sample period. To extend the test back to first availability of G Fund, F Fund and C Fund data in February 1988 (January 1988 data is partial for TSP funds), we use Vanguard Small Cap Index Investors Fund (NAESX) as a proxy for the S Fund and Vanguard International Value Investors Fund (VTRIX) as a proxy for the I Fund prior to 2001. The subscriber requested first a sensitivity test of ranking intervals (one to 12 months), and then performance tests using the optimal ranking interval on portfolios consisting of the one fund with the highest past total return (Top 1), an equally weighted portfolio of the top two funds (EW top 2) and an equally weighted portfolio of the Top 3 funds (EW Top 3). Using monthly returns for the five TSP funds as available during February 1988 through December 2014 (323 months) and monthly returns for NAESX and VTRIX during February 1988 through December 2000, we find that: Keep Reading

Quality as Discriminator of Country Stock Markets

Can investors usefully apply stock quality metrics to entire country stock markets? In his December 2014 paper entitled “Country Selection Strategies Based on Quality”, Adam Zaremba investigates whether quality metrics effectively predict country stock market index performance. He also examines whether (1) quality-size and quality-value double sorts enhance country-level value and size strategies; and, (2) high-quality markets offer a hedge during times of market distress. He considers six quality metrics: accruals, cash (cash divided by total assets), profitability (return on assets), leverage (total assets divided by common equity), payout (dividends as a fraction of income) and turnover (dollar volume of trading divided by market capitalization). Firm metric aggregation weightings are those used in constructing respective country indexes. After lagging the time series by three months to avoid a look-ahead bias, he forms capitalization-weighted portfolios of country markets by ranking them into fifths (quintiles) based on quality metric sorts. He identifies times of market distress based on: the spread between U.S. LIBOR and U.S. Treasury bill yields; VIX; the spread between U.S. corporate BBB bond and 10-year U.S. Treasury note yields; and, the spread between U.S. Treasury 10-year and 2-year note yields. Using stock market index returns and accounting data in U.S. dollars across 77 country stock markets during February 1999 through September 2014 as available, and contemporaneous market distress indicator values, he finds that: Keep Reading

VIX Term Structure Slope and Variance Asset Future Returns

Does the term structure of the the option-implied expected volatility of the S&P 500 Index (VIX, normally measured at a one-month horizon) predict future returns of variance assets such as variance swaps, VIX futures and S&P 500 Index option straddles? In his January 2015 paper entitled “Risk Premia and the VIX Term Structure”, Travis Johnson investigates the relationship between the VIX term structure slope and the variance risk premium as measured by future returns of such assets. He constructs the VIX term structure by each day calculating six values of VIX from prices of S&P 500 Index options with maturities of one, two, three, six, nine and 12 months. He measures the variance risk premium from daily returns of S&P 500 Index variance swaps, VIX futures and S&P 500 Index option straddles of various maturities. Using daily closing quotes for the specified S&P 500 index options and daily returns for the specified variance assets as available during 1996 through 2013, he finds that: Keep Reading

Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy with SHY Return Filter

A subscriber suggested using iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond ETF (SHY) as a return filter for the“Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” as a way to suppress maximum drawdown. The basic strategy each month allocates funds to the one, two or three of the following eight exchange-traded funds (ETF) plus cash, as proxied by U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills), with the highest returns over the past five months:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 1000 Index (IWB)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR Dow Jones REIT (RWR)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

The T-bill yield is an approximation of the (non-negative) yield paid on cash by brokers. SHY can have negative returns in response to a rise in interest rates because it holds U.S. Treasury notes of terms 1-3 years. We investigate in two steps: (1) substitute SHY for T-bills in the basic strategy; and, (2) apply the SHY filter, substituting SHY for any winning ETF with a lower past return than SHY. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the specified ETFs and the yield on T-bills during February 2006 (when all ETFs become available) through December 2014 (107 months), we find that:

Keep Reading

Stock Market and the Super Bowl

Investor mood may affect financial markets. Sports may affect investor mood. The biggest mood-mover among sporting events in the U.S. is likely the National Football League’s Super Bowl. Is the week before the Super Bowl especially distracting and anxiety-producing? Is the week after the Super Bowl focusing and anxiety-relieving? Presumably, post-game elation and depression cancel between respective fan bases. Using past Super Bowl dates since inception and daily/weekly S&P 500 Index data for 1967 through 2014 (48 events), we find that: Keep Reading

Low-volatility Effect Across Country Stock Markets?

Do country stock markets act like individual stocks with respect to return for risk taken? In his December 2014 paper entitled “Is There a Low-Risk Anomaly Across Countries?”, Adam Zaremba relates country stock market performance to four market risk metrics: beta (relative to the capitalization-weighted world stock market), standard deviation of returns, value at risk (fifth percentile of observations) and idiosyncratic (unexplained by world market) volatility. He uses historical intervals of 12 to 24 months as available to estimate risk metrics. He then forms capitalization-weighted portfolios of country markets by ranking them into fifths (quintiles) based on risk metric sorts. He also investigates whether risk/size and risk/book-to-market ratio double-sorts enhance country-level size and value effects. Using monthly returns and accounting data for 78 existing and discontinued country stock market indexes in U.S. dollars during February 1999 through September 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 1/19/15 – 1/23/15

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 1/19/15 through 1/23/15. These summaries give you a quick snapshot of our content the past week so that you can quickly decide what’s relevant to your investing needs.

Subscribers: To receive these weekly digests via email, click here to sign up for our mailing list. Keep Reading

Do Any Style ETFs Reliably Lead or Lag the Market?

Do any of the various U.S. stock market size and value/growth styles systematically lead or lag the overall market, perhaps because of some underlying business/economic cycle? To investigate, we consider the the following six exchange-traded funds (ETF) that cut across capitalization (large, medium and small) and value versus growth:

iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) – large capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF) – large capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS) – mid-capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP) – mid-capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN) – small capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO) – small capitalization growth stocks.

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the style ETFs and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period August 2001 through December 2014 (161 months, limited by data for IWS/IWP), we find that: Keep Reading

Style Performance by Calendar Month

The Trading Calendar presents full-year and monthly cumulative performance profiles for the overall stock market (S&P 500 Index) based on its average daily behavior since 1950. How much do the corresponding monthly behaviors of the various size and value/growth styles deviate from an overall equity market profile? To investigate, we consider the the following six exchange-traded funds (ETF) that cut across capitalization (large, medium and small) and value versus growth:

iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) – large capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF) – large capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS) – mid-capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP) – mid-capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN) – small capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO) – small capitalization growth stocks.

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the style ETFs and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period August 2001 through December 2014 (161 months, limited by data for IWS/IWP), we find that: Keep Reading

Do Any Sector ETFs Reliably Lead or Lag the Market?

Do any of the major U.S. stock market sectors systematically lead or lag the overall market, perhaps because of some underlying business/economic cycle? To investigate, we examine the behaviors of the nine sectors defined by the Select Sector Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR), all of which have trading data back to December 1998:

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

Using monthly adjusted closing prices for these exchange traded funds (ETF), along with contemporaneous data for Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPY) as a benchmark, over the period December 1998 through December 2014 (193 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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