Momentum Investing

Do financial market prices reliably exhibit momentum? If so, why, and how can traders best exploit it? These blog entries relate to momentum investing/trading.

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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 monthly returns for the SACEVS and the SACEMS exchange-traded fund (ETF) selections and look at the performance of an equally weighted portfolio of the two strategies, rebalanced monthly (50-50). Specifically, we consider: SACEVS Best Value paired with SACEMS Top 1; and, SACEVS Weighted paired with SACEMS Equally Weighted (EW) Top 3. Using monthly gross returns for SACEVS Best Value and SACEMS Top 1 since January 2003 and for SACEVS Weighted and SACEMS EW Top 3 since July 2006, all through April 2016, we find that: Keep Reading

Asset Class Momentum Interaction with Market Volatility

Subscribers have proposed that asset class momentum effects should accelerate (shorter optimal ranking interval) when markets are in turmoil (bear market/high volatility). “Asset Class Momentum Faster During Bear Markets?” addresses this hypothesis in a multi-class, relative momentum environment. Another approach is to evaluate the relationship between time series (intrinsic or absolute) momentum and volatility. Applied to the S&P 500 Index and the S&P 500 Implied Volatility Index (VIX), this alternative offers a longer sample period less dominated by the 2008-2009 equity market crash. Specifically, we examine monthly correlations between S&P 500 Index return over the past 1 to 12 months with next-month return to measure strength of time series momentum (positive correlations) or reversal (negative correlations). We compare correlations by ranked fifth (quintile) of VIX at the end of the past return measurement interval to determine (in-sample) optimal time series momentum measurement intervals for different ranges of VIX. We also test whether: (1) monthly change in VIX affects time series momentum for the S&P 500 Index; and, (2) VIX level affects time series momentum for another asset class (spot gold). Using monthly S&P 500 Index levels and spot gold prices since January 1989 and monthly VIX levels since inception in January 1990, all through April 2016, we find that: Keep Reading

Benchmarking Trend-following Managed Futures

Is there an objective way to benchmark the performance of trend-following Managed Futures hedge funds? In their March 2016 paper entitled “Adaptive Time Series Momentum – Benchmark for Trend-Following Funds”, Peter Erdos and Gert Elaut test a futures timing system that increases (decreases) allocations when trends are emerging (fading) per 251 equally weighted, volatility-scaled, daily rebalanced time series momentum (TSMOM) strategies. Strategy lookback intervals range from 10 to 260 trading days. Volatility scaling involves dividing momentum returns by an exponentially weighted daily moving average estimator of volatility over a 60-day rolling window. They account for trading frictions (bid-ask spread plus broker/market fees by asset class, estimated separately for old and new subperiods), exchange rates, one-day signal-to-trade execution delay and estimated management/performance fees. They apply the TSMOM system as a mechanical benchmark for trend-following Managed Futures hedge funds. They examine also a momentum “speed factor” that buys longer-term and sells shorter-term TSMOM strategies. Using daily prices for 98 futures contract series and monthly net-of-fee returns for 379 live and dead trend-following Managed Futures hedge funds during January 1994 through September 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting Factor Premiums via Smart Beta Indexes

Do smart beta indexes efficiently exploit factor premiums? In his April 2016 paper entitled “Factor Investing with Smart Beta Indices”, David Blitz investigates how well smart beta indexes, which deviate from the capitalization-weighted market per mechanical rules, capture corresponding factor portfolios. He consider five factors: value, momentum, low-volatility, profitability and investment. He measures their practically exploitable premiums via returns on long-only value-weighted or equal-weighted portfolios of the 30% of large-capitalization U.S. stocks with the most attractive factor values. He tests six smart beta indexes:

  1. Russell 1000 Value.
  2. MSCI Value Weighted.
  3. MSCI Momentum.
  4. S&P Low Volatility.
  5. MSCI Quality.
  6. MSCI High Dividend.

Using monthly data for the five factor portfolios and the six smart beta indexes as available through December 2015, he finds that: Keep Reading

Factor Investing Wisdom?

How should investors think about stock factor investing? In his April 2016 paper entitled “The Siren Song of Factor Timing”, Clifford Asness summarizes his current beliefs on exploiting stock factor premiums. He defines factors as ways to select individual stocks based on such firm/stock variables as market capitalization, value (in many flavors), momentum, carry (yield) and quality. He equates factor, smart beta and style investing. He describes factor timing as attempting to predict and exploit variations in factor premiums. Based on past research on U.S. stocks mostly for the past 50 years, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Integrating Value and Momentum Stock Strategies, with Turnover Management

Is there a most practical way to make value and momentum work together across stocks? In the April 2016 version of their paper entitled “Combining Value and Momentum”, Gregg Fisher,  Ronnie Shah and Sheridan Titman examine long-only stock portfolios that seek exposure to both value and momentum while suppressing trading frictions. They define value as high book-to-market ratio based on book value lagged at least four months. They define momentum as return from 12 months ago to one month ago. They consider two strategies for integrating value and momentum:

  1. Each month, choose stocks with the highest simple average value and momentum percentile ranks. They suppress turnover with buy-sell ranges, either 90-70 or 95-65. For example, the 90-70 range adds stocks with ranks higher than 90 not already in the portfolio and sells stocks in the portfolio with ranks less than 70. 
  2. After initially forming a value portfolio, each month buy stocks only when both value and momentum are favorable, and sell stocks only when both are unfavorable. This strategy weights value more than momentum, because momentum signals change more quickly than value signals. For this strategy, they each month calculate value and momentum scores for each stock as percentages of aggregate market capitalizations of other stocks with lower or equal value and momentum. They suppress turnover with a 90-70 or 95-65 buy-sell range, but the range applies only to the value score. There is a separate 50 threshold for momentum score, meaning that stocks bought (sold) must have momentum score above (below) 50.

They consider large-capitalization stocks (top 1000) and small-capitalization stocks (the rest) separately, with all portfolios value-weighted. They calculate turnover as the total amount bought or sold each month relative to portfolio size. They consider two levels of round-trip trading frictions based on historical bid-ask spreads and broker fees: high levels (based on 1993-1999 data) are 2.94% for small stocks and 1.06% for large stocks; low levels (based on 2000-2013 data) are 0.82% for small stocks and 0.41% large stocks. They focus on net Sharpe ratio as a performance metric. Using monthly data for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks during January 1974 through December 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

Simple Term Structure ETF/Mutual Fund Momentum Strategy

Does a simple relative momentum strategy applied to tradable U.S. Treasury term structure proxies produce attractive results by indicating the best duration for exploiting current interest rate trend? To investigate, we run short-term and long-term tests. The short-term test employs four exchange-traded funds (ETF) to represent the term structure:

SPDR Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill (BIL)
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY)
iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)

The second test employs three Vanguard mutual funds to represent the term structure:

Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Fund (VFISX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Fund (VFITX)
Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Fund (VUSTX)

For each test, we allocate all funds at the end of each month to the fund with the highest total return over a specified ranking interval, ranging from one month to 12 months. To accommodate the longest ranking interval, portfolio formation commences 12 months after the start of the sample. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance metrics. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for BIL, SHY, IEF and TLT since May 2007 and for VFISX, VFITX and VUSTX since October 1991, all through March 2016, we find that: Keep Reading

Momentum Strategy and Trading Calendar Updates

We have updated monthly asset class ETF momentum winners and associated performance data at Momentum Strategy.

We have updated the Trading Calendar to incorporate data for April 2016.

Preliminary Momentum Strategy Update

The home page and “Momentum Strategy” now show preliminary asset class ETF momentum strategy positions for May 2016. Differences in past returns among the top places suggest that rankings are unlikely to change by the close.

SACEMS Portfolio-Asset Exclusion Testing

“Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy Universe Sensitivity” explores effects on basic strategy (Top 1) performance from excluding base set exchange-traded funds (ETF) one at a time. How do these exclusions affect the more diversified equally weighted top two (EW Top 2) and equally weighted top three (EW Top 3) portfolio variations? To investigate, we each month rank the following assets based on past return with one excluded (nine separate test sequences) and reform the Top 1, EW Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios:

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 sample for the test starts with the first month all base set ETFs are available (February 2006). We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics, ignoring monthly portfolio reformation costs. Using end-of-month total returns for the specified nine assets during February 2006 through March 2016, we find that: Keep Reading

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Current Momentum Winners

ETF Momentum Signal
for May 2016 (Final)

Winner ETF

Second Place ETF

Third Place ETF

Gross Compound Annual Growth Rates
(Since August 2006)
Top 1 ETF Top 2 ETFs
11.3% 11.5%
Top 3 ETFs SPY
12.4% 7.2%
Strategy Overview
Current Value Allocations

ETF Value Signal
for May 2016 (Final)

Cash

IEF

LQD

SPY

The asset with the highest allocation is the holding of the Best Value strategy.
Gross Compound Annual Growth Rates
(Since September 2002)
Best Value Weighted 60-40
12.7% 9.8% 7.8%
Strategy Overview
Recent Research
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