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Aesthetic Investments

Are aesthetic investments other than gold (such as art, gems, stamps and wine) viable portfolio options? These blog entries address investing in these alternative asset classes.

Low-carbon Value Strategy?

Are there conflicts inherent in an investment strategy seeking to impose social preferences on a value style? In their May 2022 paper entitled “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished? Social vs. Investment”, Tzee-man Chow and Feifei Li investigate how a carbon reduction requirement affects construction and performance of a global developed market value stock strategy. They measure firm carbon emissions using end-of-year data from Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS), which supplements publicly available self-reported emissions with analyst reviews/estimates. They lag ISS data by three months and merge it with information for large and medium-sized stocks (top 86% of market value) in each country. Their benchmark value portfolio each year holds the market capitalization-weighted cheapest 10% of stocks based on composite valuation (average standardized book-to-price, cash flow-to-price and sales-to-price ratios and dividend yield). They then lower the carbon intensity of this portfolio via an iterative process of shifting weights from firms with relatively high carbon intensity to those with relatively low carbon intensity to achieve portfolio carbon intensities in the range 100% to 50% of that for the full universe. Using carbon emissions, valuation and price data for the specified stock universe during April 2016 through March 2021, they find that:

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NFT Return Behaviors

What are the return behaviors of non-fungible tokens (NFT), which employ blockchain technology to convey ownership of unique digital or physical items? In their March 2022 paper entitled “The Economics of Non-Fungible Tokens”, Nicola Borri, Yukun Liu and Aleh Tsyvinski assemble a comprehensive dataset of NFT transactions (including digital art/media and objects related to virtual worlds) and create NFT overall market and sector indexes based on a repeat sales method. They then test:

  • NFT market exposure to cryptocurrency market, size, value, momentum and attention factors.
  • NFT market exposure to traditional equity, commodity and currency market factors.
  • NFT market return predictability based on NFT market volatility, index-to-transaction valuation ratio, volume, momentum and attention factors.
  • Individual NFT return predictability based on size and momentum/reversal.

Using blockchain-validated weekly data from major NFT exchanges during January 2018 through December 2021, encompassing about 1.3 million repeat sales, they find that: Keep Reading

Risk and Return of NFT-focused Assets

A non-fungible token (NFT) is a way to record, verify and track on a blockchain ownership of a unique physical or digital asset such as a work of art, a futures contract, a music score, a book or real estate. Are assets related to trading of NFTs good investments? In the October 2021 version of his paper entitled “Non-Fungible Tokens (NFT). The Analysis of Risk and Return”,  Mieszko Mazur examines risk and return characteristics of 22 NFT-focused assets listed on Binance, with emphasis on the 19 with at least one month of history. He first classifies these assets into blockchain, gaming, music, media, decentralized finance (DeFi) and “other” categories. He then looks at their listing-day and longer term returns, volatilities and annualized Sharpe ratios (assuming a zero risk-free rate). He employs bitcoin as a “market” benchmark. Using daily returns for the specified 22 NFT-focused assets as available during mid-April 2019 through August 2021, he finds that: Keep Reading

ESG Realities

How meaningful is the term Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) as a descriptor of firm valuation and investment performance? In his November 2021 paper entitled “ESG: Hyperboles and Reality”, George Serafeim assesses beliefs about ESG, including those involving firm valuation and ESG firm/fund investment performance. Drawing on more than a decade of research, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Accounting for Past Return to ESG Stocks

Does past performance of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) stocks derive mostly from shift in demand from other stocks to ESG stocks? In his September 2021 paper entitled “Flow-Driven ESG Returns”, Philippe van der Beck examines whether flow of investor dollars toward ESG mutual funds explains aggregate performance of ESG stocks, as follows:

  • Construct an ESG portfolio that aggregates quarterly holdings of U.S. equity mutual funds that assert sustainability mandates.
  • Measure perceived sustainability of each stock by calculating the deviation of its ESG portfolio weight from its market portfolio weight.
  • Estimate the price pressure due to a flow of dollars into ESG mutual funds.
  • Combine perceived stock sustainability and price pressure to explore sensitivity of past ESG portfolio returns to level of dollar flow into ESG mutual funds.

Using mutual fund descriptions (with respect to importance of sustainability in investment decisions) and quarterly Form 13F mutual fund holdings data during 2000 through 2020, and underlying stock prices through the first quarter of 2021, he finds that:

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Raw and Risk-adjusted Returns of NFTs

What returns should investors expect from Non-fungible Tokens (NFT) as an alternative asset class? In the October 2021 revision of their paper entitled “Alternative Investments in the Fintech Era: The Risk and Return of Non-fungible Token (NFT)”, De-Rong Kong and Tse-Chun Lin investigate returns of NFTs, which represent ownership of digital assets via blockchains. NFT markets let owners or collectors deal directly any time via crypto-assets such as Ethereum (ETH). Anyone can review historical bids, offers, sale prices, trading dates and changes of ownership for NFTs, facilitating analysis at the transaction level. They apply this data to construct an NFT price index using a regression model that accounts for both NFT characteristics and underlying network activity. They focus on CryptoPunks crypto-images (tokens) on the ETH blockchain as the earliest and largest collection of NFTs. Using data for 13,712 transactions involving 5,630 unique CryptoPunks tokens as recorded by Larva Labs during June 2017 through May 2021, they find that:

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Pure ESG?

Is it possible to isolate environmental, social and governance characteristics (ESG) effects on stock returns from those of other stock characteristics? In their July 2021 paper entitled “Chasing The ESG Factor”, Abraham Lioui and Andrea Tarelli specify a cross-sectional long-short ESG factor that neutralizes exposures to other firm characteristics, such as size and book-to-market ratio. By creating a pure ESG factor, they are able to isolate ESG alpha and estimate its separate E, S and G contributions. Their approach also suppresses effects of arbitrary ESG rating scales. They further construct an ESG sentiment index based on media attention to ESG-related topics and employ it to understand variations in pure ESG alpha. Using monthly firm ESG ratings from three sources as available during 1991-2019 and associated stock characteristics and returns during December 1992 through December 2020, with tests spanning December 2002 through December 2020, they find that: Keep Reading

ESG News and Stock Returns

How do investors react to different kinds of firm-level environmental, social and governance (ESG) news? In their April 2021 paper entitled “Which Corporate ESG News does the Market React to?”, George Serafeim and Aaron Yoon examine stock returns around ESG news from analysts, media, advocacy groups and government regulators (but not firms themselves) as compiled/evaluated by TruValue Labs. Evaluation includes degree to which each news item is positive or negative. They segment the news sample based on materiality classifications from the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB). Using daily market-adjusted and industry-adjusted stock returns associated with 111,020 firm-day ESG news items spanning 3,126 companies during January 2010 through June 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Green Factor in Stock Returns

Is outperformance of green (environmentally friendly) stocks relative to brown (not environmentally friendly) stocks due to firm performance or concern about the climate? In other words, do green stocks carry a climate concern premium? In their June 2021 paper entitled “Dissecting Green Returns”, Lubos Pastor, Robert Stambaugh and Lucian Taylor examine relative performance of green and brown stocks in the context of unexpectedly strong increases in environmental concerns (climate concern jumps). Specifically, they:

  • Construct a green factor as the return on a portfolio that is each month long (short) green (brown) stocks weighted by greenness based on environment-focused elements of MSCI ESG Ratings.
  • Devise and test a 2-factor (market and green) model of stock returns.
  • Compute a monthly measure of public climate concern based on an associated media index, with focus on series jumps.

Using stock return and factor data during November 2012 (based on availability of ESG ratings) through December 2020 and climate concern data during November 2012 through June 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Art as a Crypto-asset

Are non-fungible tokens (NFT) the future of music and art valuation? In his April 2021 early/incomplete draft entitled “Virtual Art and Non-fungible Tokens”, Lawrence Trautman describes the new market for digital art, explores the evolution of the digital world and virtual property, explores NFTs and offers a few thoughts about the future of digital property. Based on a survey of relevant technology commentaries and law, he concludes that: Keep Reading

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