Bonds

Bonds have two price components, yield and response of price to prevailing interest rates. How much of a return premium should investors in bonds expect? How can investors enhance this premium? These blog entries examine investing in bonds.

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Effects of Execution Delay on Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy

“Effects of Execution Delay on Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” investigates how delaying signal execution affects strategy performance. How does execution delay affect the performance of the complementary Best Value version of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy”? This latter strategy each quarter allocates all funds to the one of the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) associated with the most undervalued risk premium (term, credit or equity), or to cash if none are undervalued:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

To investigate, we compare 23 variations of the strategy that all use end-of-quarter (EOQ) to determine the best value asset but shift execution from the contemporaneous EOQ to the next open or to closes over the next 21 trading days (about one month). For example, an EOQ+5 Close variation uses an EOQ cycle to determine winners but delays execution until the close five trading days after EOQ. Using daily dividend-adjusted opens and closes for the risk premium proxies and the yield for Cash from the end of September 2002 through the end of March 2015 (51 quarters), we find that:

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Comparison of Variable Retirement Spending Strategies

Do variable retirement spending strategies offer greater utility than fixed-amount or fixed-percentage strategies? In his March 2015 paper entitled “Making Sense Out of Variable Spending Strategies for Retirees”, Wade Pfau compares via simulation ten retirement spending strategies based on a common set of assumptions. He classifies these strategies into two categories: (1) those based on decision rules (such as fixed real spending and fixed percentage spending); and, (2) actuarial models based on remaining portfolio balance and estimated remaining longevity. His bases comparisons on 10,000 Monte Carlo runs for each strategy. He assumes a retirement portfolio of 50% U.S. stocks and 50% U.S. government bonds with initial value $100,000, rebalanced annually after end-of-year 0.5% fees and beginning-of-year withdrawals. He calibrates initial spending where feasible by imposing a probability of X% (X=10) that real spending falls below $Y (Y=1,500) by year Z of retirement (Z=30). He treats terminal wealth as unintentional (in fact, undesirable), with the essential trade-off between spending more now and having to cut spending later. He ignores tax implications. Using historical return data from Robert Shiller and current levels of inflation and interest rates (see the chart below), he finds that: Keep Reading

Bond Style Performance and Exploitation

Does a factor (style) premium model identify exploitable abnormal corporate bond returns? In their March 2015 paper entitled “Investing with Style in Corporate Bonds”, Ronen Israel, Johnny Kang and Scott Richardson investigate the usefulness of four bond return factors:

  1. Carry – the fixed spread that must be added to the U.S. Treasuries yield curve such that the discounted payments of the corporate bond match its traded market price.
  2. Defensive (low-risk) – corporate bond from an issuer with low levels of market leverage (total debt divided by the sum of total debt and market value of equity).
  3. Momentum – trailing 6-month corporate bond return in excess of the risk-free rate.
  4. Value – corporate bond with a high carry relative to the issuer’s fundamental distance-to-default (measured via linear regression).

Specifically, they measure the ability of these four factors to explain future excess (negating the role of interest rates) returns of different corporate bonds. They also test exploitability via a long-only portfolio with exposure to the factors. Finally, they check the degrees to which actively managed credit hedge and mutual funds actually exploit the factors. Using monthly data for a broad (but filtered) sample of U.S. corporate bonds/issuers (10,825 bonds and 5,300 issuers) and monthly return data for 213 actively managed credit hedge funds and 218 actively managed credit mutual funds during January 1997 through December 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

SACEMS-SACEVS Mutual Diversification

Are the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) and the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) mutually diversifying. To check, we relate quarterly returns for the SACEVS Best Value and the SACEMS Top 1 exchange-traded fund (ETF) selections and look at the performance of an equally weighted portfolio of these two strategies (50-50). Using quarterly gross returns for SACEVS Best Value and SACEMS Top 1 during January 2003 through December 2014, we find that: Keep Reading

Simple Asset Class Value Strategy Applied to Mutual Funds

“Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” finds that investors may be able to exploit relative valuation of the term risk premium, the credit (default) risk premium and the equity risk premium via exchange-traded funds (ETF). However, the backtesting period is limited by available histories for ETFs and for the series used to estimate risk premiums. To construct a longer test, we make the following substitutions for potential holdings (selected for length of available samples):

To enable estimation of risk premiums over a longer history, we also substitute:

We retain quarterly average yields for Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds for calculation of the credit risk premium. As with ETFs, we consider two alternative strategies for exploiting premium undervaluation: Best Value, which picks the most undervalued premium; and, Weighted, which weights all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation. Based on the assets considered, the principal benchmark is a quarterly rebalanced portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% U.S. Treasuries (60-40 VWUSX-VFIIX). Using quarterly risk premium calculation data during January 1934 through December 2014 (limited by availability of Moody’s Baa data), and quarterly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the three asset class mutual funds during June 1980 through December 2014 (139 quarters), we find that:

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Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy

Does a simple relative value strategy applied to tradable asset class proxies produce attractive results? To investigate, we test a simple strategy on the following three asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus cash:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

This set of ETFs relates to three factor risk premiums: (1) the difference in yields between Treasury bills and Treasury note/bonds indicates the term risk premium; (2) the difference in yields between corporate bonds and Treasury notes/bonds indicates the credit (default) risk premium; and, (3) the difference in yields between equities and Treasury notes/bonds indicates the equity risk premium. We consider two alternative strategies for exploiting premium undervaluation: Best Value, which picks the most undervalued premium; and, Weighted, which weights all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation. Based on the assets considered, the principal benchmark is a quarterly rebalanced portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% U.S. Treasury notes (60-40 SPY-IEF). Using quarterly S&P 500 Index levels and earnings, quarterly average yields for 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills), quarterly average yields for 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury notes (T-notes), quarterly average yields for Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds during March 1989 through December 2014 (limited by availability of earnings data), and quarterly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above three asset class ETFs during September 2002 through December 2014 (45 quarters, limited by availability of IEF and LQD), we find that: Keep Reading

Year-end Global Growth and Future Asset Class Returns

Does fourth quarter global economic data set the stage for asset class returns the next year? In their February 2015 paper entitled “The End-of-the-year Effect: Global Economic Growth and Expected Returns Around the World”, Stig Møller and Jesper Rangvid examine relationships between level of global economic growth and future asset class returns, focusing on growth at the end of the year. Their principle measure of global economic growth is the equally weighted average of quarterly OECD industrial production growth in 12 developed countries. They perform in-sample tests 30 countries and out-of-sample tests for these same 12 countries (for which more data are available). Out-of-sample tests: (1) generate initial parameters from 1970 through 1989 data for testing during 1990 through 2013 period; and, (2) insert a three-month delay between economic growth data and subsequent return calculations to account for publication lag. Using global industrial production growth as specified, annual total returns for 30 country, two regional and world stock indexes, currency spot and one-year forward exchange rates relative to the U.S. dollar, spot prices on 19 commodities, total annual returns for a global government bond index and a U.S. corporate bond index, and country inflation rates as available during 1970 through 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

Credit Risk Premium Magnitude and Dynamics

Is the reward for holding risky bonds material and distinct from the reward for holding stocks and the reward for holding longer term bonds? In their February 2015 paper entitled “Credit Risk Premium: Its Existence and Implications for Asset Allocation”, Attakrit Asvanunt and Scott Richardson measure and explore the predictability and diversification power of the credit (or default) risk premium associated with corporate bonds. They focus on the premium associated with creditworthiness of bonds by first removing the influence of duration/interest rates. They also test whether the credit risk premium diversifies the equity risk premium and the bond term premium. Using data for U.S. corporate bonds, the U.S. stock market, U.S. Treasury securities and economic indicators during 1927 through 2014 and for credit default swaps (CDS) during 2004 through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Simple Fidelity Bond Mutual Fund Momentum Strategy

A subscriber requested corroboration of the findings in “Simple Debt Class Mutual Fund Momentum Strategy” with a universe restricted to a family of bond funds (such as Fidelity) to enable low-cost fund switching. We therefore apply the strategy to the following ten Fidelity mutual funds:

Investment Grade Bond (FBNDX)
Intermediate Bond (FTHRX)
Government Income (FGOVX)
Mortgage Securities (FMSFX)
GNMA (FGMNX)
Short-Term Bond (FSHBX)
Limited Term Government (FFXSX)
Convertible Securities (FCVSX)
Intermediate Government Income (FSTGX)
Fidelity New Markets Income (FNMIX)

Per the prior test, we allocate all funds at the end of each month to the fund with the highest total return over the past three months (3-1). We determine the first winner in May 1994 to accommodate momentum measurement interval sensitivity testing. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the ten funds during May 1993 (as limited by FNMIX) through January 2015 (261 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Dependence of Optimal Allocations on Investment Horizon

Does optimal asset allocation, as measured by Sharpe ratio, depend on investment horizon? In their January 2015 paper entitled “Optimal Asset Allocation Across Investment Horizons”, Ronald Best, Charles Hodges and James Yoder explore the optimal (highest Sharpe ratio) mix of long-term U.S. corporate bonds and large-capitalization U.S. common stocks across investment horizons from one to 25 years. They test portfolios ranging from 100%-0% to 0%-100% stocks-bonds in 5% increments with annual rebalancing. They estimate annual returns for stocks and bonds based on 87 years of historical data. They simulate the portfolio return distribution for a given n-year holding period via 2,500 iterations for each of two methods:

  1. Randomly select with replacement n years from the 87 years in the historical sample and use the annual returns for U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills, the risk-free rate), stocks and bonds for those n years in the order selected to calculate portfolio gross compound n-year excess returns. This method assumes year-to-year independence (zero autocorrelations) of annual returns for stocks and bonds, meaning no momentum or reversion.
  2. Randomly select a year from the first 87 – (n-1) years in the historical sample and use the annual returns for T-bills, stocks and bonds for that and the next n-1 consecutive years to calculate portfolio gross compound n-year excess returns. This method preserves historical autocorrelations in return series.

Using annual returns for T-bills, U.S. large-capitalization common stocks and U.S. long-term corporate bonds during 1926 through 2012, they find that: Keep Reading

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Current Momentum Winners

ETF Momentum Signal
for April 2015 (Final)

Winner ETF

Second Place ETF

Third Place ETF

Gross Compound Annual Growth Rates
(Since August 2006)
Top 1 ETF Top 2 ETFs
15.1% 15.8%
Top 3 ETFs SPY
15.3% 7.7%
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ETF Value Signal
for 2nd Quarter 2015 (Final)

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IEF

LQD

SPY

The asset with the highest allocation is the holding of the Best Value strategy.
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Best Value Weighted 60-40
13.7% 9.6% 8.6%
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