Objective research to aid investing decisions
Value Allocations for Nov 2018 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY
Momentum Allocations for Nov 2018 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

Leveraged ETF Pairs Performance

Are there long-term positions in leveraged index exchange-traded funds (ETF) that beat buying and holding the underlying index? In his October 2018 paper entitled “Leveraged ETF Pairs: An Empirical Evaluation of Portfolio Performance”, Stanley Peterburgsky examines the performance of simple strategies involving leveraged and inverse leveraged ETFs. Specifically, he tests whether the following leveraged ETF portfolios are likely to outperform underlying total return indexes:

  1. A long position in SSO or UPRO, compared to the S&P 500 Index.
  2. 1/3 short UPRO (URTY) and 2/3 short SPXU (SRTY), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.
  3. 1/4 short SSO (UWM) and 3/4 short SDS (TWM), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.
  4. Short SH (RWM), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.

All short positions have matching long positions in 1-month U.S. Treasury bills that drive some trading. For example, at the end of each trading day, if the UPRO/SRTY portfolio value is less than 90% (more than 110%) of the short balance, the strategy buys (shorts additional) shares of UPRO and SPXU in equal proportions to restore long-short balance. In addition, strategies 2 and 3 require occasional rebalancing of ETF pairs. Baseline strategies allows pair members to drift up to 20% apart before rebalancing. Sensitivity tests evaluate effects of tightening the rebalancing threshold to 10%. Key performance metrics are average annualized return, average annualized standard deviation of daily returns and average annualized Sharpe ratio. Using daily total returns for the specified leveraged ETFs and underlying indexes during 2010 (2/9/2010 for Russell 2000-based funds) through 2016, he finds that:

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Most Effective U.S. Stock Market Return Predictors

Which economic and market variables are most effective in predicting U.S. stock market returns? In his October 2018 paper entitled “Forecasting US Stock Returns”, David McMillan tests 10-year rolling and recursive (inception-to-date) one-quarter-ahead forecasts of S&P 500 Index capital gains and total returns using 18 economic and market variables, as follows: dividend-price ratio; price-earnings ratio; cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio; payout ratio; Fed model; size premium; value premium; momentum premium; quarterly change in GDP, consumption, investment and CPI; 10-year Treasury note yield minus 3-month Treasury bill yield (term structure); Tobin’s q-ratio; purchasing managers index (PMI);  equity allocation; federal government consumption and investment; and, a short moving average. He tests individual variables, four multivariate combinations and and six equal-weighted combinations of individual variable forecasts. He employs both conventional linear statistics and non-linear economic measures of accuracy based on sign and magnitude of forecast errors. He uses the historical mean return as a forecast benchmark. Using quarterly S&P 500 Index returns and data for the above-listed variables during January 1960 through February 2017, he finds that: Keep Reading

Most Stock Anomalies Fake News?

How does a large sample of stock return anomalies fare in recent replication testing? In their October 2018 paper entitled “Replicating Anomalies”, Kewei Hou, Chen Xue and Lu Zhang attempt to replicate 452 published U.S. stock return anomalies, including 57, 69, 38, 79, 103, and 106 anomalies 57 momentum, 69 value-growth, 38 investment, 79 profitability, 103 intangibles and 106 trading frictions (trading volume, liquidity, market microstructure) anomalies. Compared to the original papers, they use the same sample populations, original (as early as January 1967) and extended (through 2016) sample periods and similar methods/variable definitions. They test limiting influence of microcaps (stocks in the lowest 20% of market capitalizations) by using NYSE (not NYSE-Amex-NASDAQ) size breakpoints and value-weighted returns. They consider an anomaly replication successful if average high-minus-low tenth (decile) return is significant at the 5% level, translating to t-statistic at least 1.96 for pure standalone tests and at least 2.78 assuming multiple testing (accounting for aggregate data snooping bias). Using required anomaly data and monthly returns for U.S. non-financial stocks during January 1967 through December 2016, they find that:

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Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 11/12/18 – 11/16/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 11/12/18 through 11/16/18. 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.

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Moving Average Timing of Stock Fundamental Ratios

Can investors time premiums associated with widely used stock/firm fundamental ratios? In their September 2018 paper entitled “It Takes Two to Tango: Fundamental Timing in Stock Market”, Fuwei Jiang, Xinlin Qi, Guohao Tang and Nan Huang use a simple moving average (SMA) trend indicator to time premiums associated with four fundamental stock/firm ratios: book-to-market (BM), earnings-to-price (EP), gross profitability (GP), and return-on-assets (ROA). In calculating these ratios, they lag accounting variables by six months to avoid look-ahead bias. For each ratio, they:

  • At the end of each June, rank stocks into tenths (deciles).
  • Each day, calculate value-weighted average returns for the deciles with the highest (highest BM, EP, GP, ROA) and lowest (lowest BM, EP, GP, ROA) expected returns and maintain price indexes for these two deciles.
  • Each day, hold a long (short) position in the decile with highest (lowest) expected returns only when the decile price index is above (below) its 20-day SMA, indicating an upward (downward) trend. When not holding a decile, hold Treasury bills.

As benchmarks, they each year buy and hold four portfolios that are each long (short) the value-weighted deciles with the highest (lowest) expected returns for one of the fundamental ratios. While focusing on a 20-day SMA, for robustness they also test SMAs of 10, 50, 100 and 200 trading days. While focusing on value weighting, they also look at equal weighting. They run tests on both non-financial Chinese A-share stocks and non-financial U.S. common stocks. Using annual groomed fundamentals data and daily returns for Chinese stocks during January 2001-December 2017 and for U.S. stocks during July 1970-December 2017, and contemporaneous Treasury bill yields, they find that:

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U.S. Stock Market Returns Around Thanksgiving

Does the Thanksgiving holiday, a time of families celebrating plenty, give U.S. stock investors a sense of optimism that translates into stock returns? To investigate, we analyze the historical behavior of the S&P 500 Index during the three trading days before and the three trading days after the holiday. Using daily closing levels of the S&P 500 Index for 1950-2017 (68 events), we find that: Keep Reading

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for October 2018. The actual total (core) inflation rate for September is higher than (the same as) forecasted.

New Home Sales and Future Stock Market/REIT Returns

Each month, the Census Bureau announces and the financial media report U.S. new home sales as a potential indicator of future U.S. stock market returns. Release date is about three weeks after the month being reported. Moreover, new releases may substantially revise recent past releases, so that the Census Bureau historical data set effectively has a longer lag. Does this economic indicator convey useful information about future returns for the broad U.S. stock market or for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)? To investigate, we relate returns for the S&P 500 Index (SP500) and for the FTSE NAREIT All REITs total return index (REITs) to changes in new home sales at the monthly release frequency. Using monthly data for SP500 and for seasonally adjusted annualized new homes sales starting January 1963, and for REITs starting December 1971, all through September 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Housing Starts and Future Stock Market/REIT Returns

Each month, the Census Bureau announces and the financial media report U.S. housing starts as a potential indicator of future U.S. stock market returns. Release date is about two weeks after the month being reported. New releases may substantially revise recent past releases, so that the Census Bureau historical data set effectively has a longer lag. Does this economic indicator convey useful information about future returns for the broad U.S. stock market or for Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT)? To investigate, we relate returns for the S&P 500 Index (SP500) and for the FTSE NAREIT All REITs total return index (REITs) to changes in housing starts at the monthly release frequency. Using monthly data for SP500 and for seasonally adjusted annualized housing starts starting January 1959, and for REITs starting December 1971, all through September 2018, we find that:

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Which Economic Variables Really Matter for Stocks?

Which economic variables are most important for predicting stock returns? In their October 2018 paper entitled “Sparse Macro Factors”, David Rapach and Guofu Zhou apply machine learning to isolate via sparse principal component analysis (PCA) which of 120 economic variables from the FRED-MD database most influence stocks. These variables span output/income, labor market, housing, consumption, orders/inventories, money/credit, yields/exchange rates and inflation. As a preliminary step, they adjust raw economic variables by, where necessary: (1) transforming them to produce stationary series; (2) adjusting for reporting lags of one or two months. They next execute sparse PCA, which sets small component weights to zero, thereby facilitating interpretation of results without sacrificing much predictive power. For comparison, they also extract the first 10 conventional principal components from the same variables. Finally, they use 202 stock portfolios to estimate the influence of sparse and conventional principal components on the cross section of stock returns. Using monthly data for the 120 economic variables and 202 stock portfolios during February 1960 through June 2018, they find that:

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