Strategic Allocation

Is there a best way to select and weight asset classes for long-term diversification benefits? These blog entries address this strategic allocation question.

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Preliminary Value Strategy Update

The home page and “Value Strategy” now show preliminary asset class ETF value strategy positions for September 2015. There may be small shifts in allocations based on final data, but the “Best Value” selection is unlikely to change.

Preliminary Momentum Strategy Update

The home page and “Momentum Strategy” now show preliminary asset class ETF momentum strategy positions for September 2015. The difference in past returns between first and second place is large. The differences among second, third and fourth places are small, so their order could easily change by the close. Only Cash has a positive return over the ranking interval.

Risk-averse investors following the strategy may want to consider the findings in “SACEMS with Three Copies of Cash”.

SACEMS with Three Copies of Cash

Subscribers have expressed concern about selecting assets with negative past returns for versions of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) that hold the equally weighted (EW) Top 2 or EW Top 3 exchange-traded funds (ETF). To test this concern, we expand the universe of ETFs/Cash by adding two copies of Cash, as follows:

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)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

For this universe, if all assets other than Cash have negative total returns over the past five months, the EW Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios select only Cash. Using monthly dividend adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period February 2006 (the earliest all ETFs are available) through July 2015 (114 months), we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS Input Risk Premiums and FFR

The “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” seeks diversification across a small set of asset class exchanged-traded funds (ETF), plus a monthly tactical edge from potential undervaluation of three risk premiums:

  1. Term – monthly difference between the 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note) yield and the 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield.
  2. Credit – monthly difference between the Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds yield and the T-note yield.
  3. Equity – monthly difference between S&P 500 operating earnings yield and the T-note yield.

Premium valuations are relative to historical averages. How might this strategy react to increases in the Federal Funds Rate (FFR)? Using end-of-month values of the three risk premiums, FFR, total 12-month U.S. inflation and core 12-month U.S. inflation during January 1990 (limited by availability of specific FFR targets) through June 2015 (306 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Effects of Execution Delay on SACEVS

“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 Best Value and Weighted versions of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS)? These strategies each month allocate funds to the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) according to valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums, or to cash if no premiums 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 21 variations of each strategy that all use end-of-month (EOM) to determine the asset allocations but shift execution from the baseline EOM+1 close to subsequent closes up to EOM+21. For example, an EOM+5 variation uses an EOM cycle to determine allocations but delays execution until the close five trading days after EOM. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes for the above ETFs and daily yields for Cash during August 2002 through June 2015 (154 months), we 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 monthly 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, rebalanced monthly (50-50). Using monthly gross returns for SACEVS Best Value and SACEMS Top 1 during January 2003 through June 2015, we find that: Keep Reading

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 notes/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 monthly rebalanced portfolio of 60% stocks and 40% U.S. Treasury notes (60-40 SPY-IEF). Using lagged quarterly S&P 500 earnings, end-of-month S&P 500 Index levels and end-of-month yields for the 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill), the 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note) and Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds during March 1989 through June 2015 (limited by availability of earnings data), and daily dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above three asset class ETFs during July 2002 through June 2015 (156 months, limited by availability of IEF and LQD), we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS Modifications

We have made three changes to the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) based on results of  robustness tests and subscriber comments:

  1. To employ fresher data, we decrease the SACEVS S&P 500 Index level and bond/bill yield measurement interval from quarterly to monthly. S&P 500 Index operating earnings updates are still quarterly.
  2. To employ fresher data, we use end-of-measurement interval (end-of-month) bond/bill yields rather than average yields during the measurement interval.
  3. To account for a lag in availability of bill/bond yield data, we delay signal execution by one trading day.

These changes are logical, but introduce some additional noise. They result in somewhat higher risk-adjusted performance for SACEVS, at the expense of some additional trading. Effects on the Weighted version of the strategy are greater than those on the Best Value version.

We are updating “Value Strategy” and some related tests accordingly.

Sector vs. Factor U.S. Stock Diversification?

Which is better, sector-based or factor-based stock investing? In their June 2015 paper entitled “Factor-Based v. Industry-Based Asset Allocation: The Contest”, Marie Briere and Ariane Szafarz compare the attractiveness of sector-based and factor-based U.S. stock allocations. From Kenneth French’s data library, they extract return series for 10 sectors and five factors (size, value, profitability, investment and momentum). They expand the factor set to 10 by using long and short portfolios for each factor. They consider three trials:

  1. Which group, sectors or factors, yields the dominantly more attractive efficient frontier?
  2. Which group offers the clearly superior gross Jensen’s alphas across single-sector/factor portfolios and portfolios diversified across sectors or factors based on maximizing estimated Sharpe ratio, minimizing estimated volatility or equal weighting?
  3. Do portfolios diversified across sectors or factors (based on maximizing estimated Sharpe ratio, minimizing estimated volatility or equal weighting) offer the best gross Sharpe ratios?

For each trial, they test long-only and long-short factor portfolios. Also for each trial, they test the overall sample, economic recession and expansion subsamples (per the National Bureau of Economic Research) and bull and bear market subsamples (per Forbes magazine). Using monthly U.S. stock market factor and sector returns from Kenneth French’s library spanning July 1963 through November 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

More International Equity Market Granularity for SACEMS?

A subscriber asked whether more granularity in international equity choices for the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS), as considered by the Decision Moose, would improve performance. To investigate, we replace the iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM) and the iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA) with four regional international equity exchange-traded funds (ETF). The universe of assets then becomes:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan (EPP)
iShares MSCI Japan (EWJ)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Europe (IEV)
iShares Latin America 40 (ILF)
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)

We compare original (SACEMS) and modified (SACEMS Granular) winner portfolios, allocating all funds at the end of each month to the asset class ETF or cash with the highest total return over the past five months. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period July 2002 through May 2015 (156 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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Current Momentum Winners

ETF Momentum Signal
for September 2015 (Final)

Winner ETF

Second Place ETF

Third Place ETF

Gross Compound Annual Growth Rates
(Since August 2006)
Top 1 ETF Top 2 ETFs
12.4% 12.9%
Top 3 ETFs SPY
13.0% 6.9%
Strategy Overview
Current Value Allocations

ETF Value Signal
for September 2015 (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
12.2% 9.6% 7.6%
Strategy Overview
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