Investing Research Articles

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Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for July 2014. The actual total (core) inflation rate for July is slightly lower than (slightly lower than) forecasted.

The new actual and forecasted inflation rates will flow into Real Earnings Yield Model projections at the end of the month.

Snooping Bias Accounting Tools

How can researchers account for the snooping bias derived from testing of multiple strategy alternatives on the same set of data? In the July 2014 version of their paper entitled “Evaluating Trading Strategies”, Campbell Harvey and Yan Liu describe tools that adjust strategy evaluation for multiple testing. They note that conventional thresholds for statistical significance assume an independent (single) test. Applying these same thresholds to multiple testing scenarios induces many false discoveries of “good” trading strategies. Evaluation of multiple tests requires makgin significance thresholds more stringent. In effect, such adjustments mean demanding higher Sharpe ratios or, alternatively, applying “haircuts” to computed strategy Sharpe ratios according to the number of strategies tried.  They consider two approaches: one that aggressively excludes false discoveries, and another that scales avoidance of false discoveries with the number of strategy alternatives tested. Using mathematical derivations and examples, they conclude that:

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Very Best Mutual Funds?

How should investors use Morningstar mutual fund ratings/grades to select mutual funds? In his July 2014 paper entitled “Morningstar Mutual Fund Measures and Selection Model”, John Haslem surveys the five kinds of Morningstar mutual fund ratings and grades: (1)  Morningstar star ratings (one to five stars); (2) analyst ratings (gold, silver, bronze, neutral and negative); (3) total pillar ratings ( positive, neutral or negative for fund people, process, parent, performance and price); (4) upside/downside capture ratios; and, (5) stewardship ratings (culture, incentives, fees, board quality and regulatory history). Based on the body of research about the predictive power of Morningstar ratings/grades, he chooses three criteria for screening mutual funds:

  1. Star rating of 4 or 5 and analyst rating of gold or silver.
  2. Upside capture ratios greater than downside capture ratios for all three of 3-year, 5-year and 10-year past performance intervals.
  3. Total stewardship grade of A.

He applies these criteria to the set of Vanguard actively managed diversified (not sector) U.S. equity mutual funds. His selections are current winners, with empirical testing requiring future performance data. Applying the chosen criteria to the specified set of Vanguard funds, he finds that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 8/11/14 – 8/15/14

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 8/11/14 through 8/15/14. 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

Optimal Monthly Cycle for Sector ETF Momentum Strategy?

In response to “Optimal Monthly Cycle for Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy?”, a subscriber asked about the optimal monthly cycle for “Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy”, which each month allocates all funds to the one of the following nine Select Sector Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR) exchange-traded funds (ETF) with the highest total return over the past six months :

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)

To investigate, we compare 21 variations of the strategy based on shifting the monthly return calculation cycle relative to trading days from the end of the month (EOM). For example, an EOM+5 cycle ranks assets based on closing prices five trading days after EOM each month. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes for the sector ETFs from mid-January 1999 through mid-July 2014 (about 186 months), we find that:

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VIX and Future Stock Market Returns

Experts and pundits sometimes cite a high Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX), the options-implied volatility of the S&P 500 Index, as contrarian indication of investor panic and therefore of pending U.S. stock market strength. Conversely, they cite a low VIX as indication of complacency and pending market weakness. However, a more nuanced conventional wisdom considers both very high VIX and very low VIX as favorable for future stock market returns. Does evidence support belief in either version of conventional wisdom? To check, we relate the level of VIX to S&P 500 Index returns over the next 5, 10, 21, 63 and 126 trading days. Using daily and monthly closes for VIX and for the S&P 500 Index over the period January 1990 through July 2014 (296 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Sensitivity of Risk Adjustment to Measurement Interval

Are widely used volatility-adjusted investment performance metrics, such as Sharpe ratio, robust to different measurement intervals? In the July 2014 version of their paper entitled “The Divergence of High- and Low-Frequency Estimation: Implications for Performance Measurement”, William Kinlaw, Mark Kritzman and David Turkington examine the sensitivity of such metrics to the length of the return interval used to measure it. They consider hedge fund performance, conventionally estimated as Sharpe ratio calculated from monthly returns and annualized by multiplying by the square root of 12. They also consider mutual fund performance, usually evaluated as excess return divided by excess volatility relative to an appropriate benchmark (information ratio). Finally, they consider Sharpe ratios of risk parity strategies, which periodically rebalance portfolio asset weights according to the inverse of their return standard deviations. Using monthly and longer-interval return data over available sample periods for each case, they find that: Keep Reading

Impact of Commodities Financialization on Strategies

Has the growing role of financial investors in commodities markets (financialization) weakened performance of widely used momentum and term structure investing strategies? In his July 2014 paper entitled “Strategies Based on Momentum and Term Structure in Financialized Commodity Markets”, Adam Zaremba investigates impacts of financialization of commodity markets on the profitability of momentum and term structure strategies. His base momentum strategy is each month long (short) the half of commodity futures with higher (lower) returns over the past month. His base term structure strategy is long (short) the half of commodity futures with the largest positive or backwardated (negative or contangoed) difference in prices between the nearest and next-nearest contracts. For each commodity futures series and each strategy, he performs double-sorts on strategy parameters and the level of financial investor (non-commercial trader) participation from Commitments of Traders (COT) reports to measure the effects of financialization on strategy performance. All portfolios are equally weighted and fully collateralized. Using monthly total returns for 26 commodity futures series as available and a broad commodities index, along with position data from COT reports, during 1986 through 2013, he finds that: Keep Reading

Effects of Execution Delay on Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy

“Optimal Monthly Cycle for Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy?” investigates whether using a monthly cycle other than end-of-month (EOM) to determine the winning asset improves performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy”. This strategy each month allocates all funds to the one of the following eight asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), or cash, with the highest total return 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)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

In response, a subscriber asked whether sticking with an EOM cycle for determining the winner, but delaying signal execution, affects strategy performance. To investigate, we compare 23 variations of the strategy that all use EOM to determine the winning asset but shift execution from the contemporaneous EOM to the next open or to closes over the next 21 trading days (about one month). For example, an EOM+5 Close variation uses an EOM cycle to determine winners but delays executions until the close five trading days after EOM. Using daily dividend-adjusted opens and closes for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash from the end of July 2002 (or inception if not available then) through the end of July 2014 (144 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 8/4/14 – 8/8/14

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 8/4/14 through 8/8/14. 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

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Avoiding Investment Strategy Flame-outs eBook
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ETF Momentum Signal
for August 2014 (Final)

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