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Animal Spirits

Are investors and traders cats, rationally and independently sniffing out returns? Or are they cows, flowing with a herd that must know something? These blog entries relate to behavioral finance, the study of the animal spirits of investing and trading.

Underwear Leads the Stock Market?

A subscriber hypothesized that keeping old underwear is an early indicator of personal income at risk. Trends in underwear, as proxied by Hanesbrands Inc. (HBI), may therefore be a leading indicator of trends in the overall stock market. To test this hypothesis, we relate HBI returns to SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) returns at a monthly frequency. Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for HBI and SPY during September 2006 (limited by HBI) through March 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

A Slinky (Short-term Reversion) Effect?

Do often frenzied investors/traders tend to overdo buying and selling, coming to their senses shortly thereafter? In other words, does the broad U.S. stock market tend to revert after short-term moves up or down? To check, we relate sequential past and future return intervals of 1, 2, 3, 5, 10, 15 and 21 trading days. Using daily closes of the S&P 500 Index over the period January 1928 through mid-March 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Climate Solutions Stocks

Are firms offering products and services purported to mitigate climate change compelling investments? In the February 2022 revision of their paper entitled “Climate Solutions Investments”, Alexander Cheema-Fox, George Serafeim and Hui Wang analyze international reports, regional net zero frameworks, research papers and news to develop a list of 164 key words/phrases associated with climate change solution business areas. They apply these key words/phrases to firm descriptions to identify 632 actively traded pure plays in climate solutions. They then characterize geographies, accounting fundamentals and valuation ratios for this sample and construct monthly rebalanced value-weighted and equal-weighted climate solutions portfolios (CSP). Using monthly firm fundamentals and stock trading data for these 632 firms from the end of 2010 through October 2021, they find that: Keep Reading

Doom and the Stock Market

Is proximity to doom good or bad for the U.S. stock market? To measure proximity to doom, we use the Doomsday Clock “Minutes-to-Midnight” metric, revised intermittently in late January via the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which “warns the public about how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own making. It is a metaphor, a reminder of the perils we must address if we are to survive on the planet.” Using the timeline for the Doomsday Clock since inception in 1947 and contemporaneous end-of-year levels of the S&P 500 Index through 2021, we find that:

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Stock Market and the Super Bowl

Investor mood may affect financial markets. Sports may affect investor mood. The biggest mood-mover among sporting events in the U.S. is likely the National Football League’s Super Bowl. Is the week before the Super Bowl especially distracting and anxiety-producing? Is the week after the Super Bowl focusing and anxiety-relieving? Presumably, post-game elation and depression cancel between respective fan bases. Using past Super Bowl dates since inception and daily/weekly S&P 500 Index levels for 1967 through 2021 (55 events), we find that: Keep Reading

How Are Renewable Energy ETFs Doing?

How do exchange-traded-funds (ETF) focused on supplying renewable energy perform? To investigate, we consider nine of the largest renewable energy ETFs, all currently available, as follows:

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a benchmark, assuming investors look at renewable energy stocks to beat the market and not to beat the energy sector. We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the nine renewable energy ETFs and SPY as available through September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Variation in COVID-19 Cases and Future Asset Returns

Does variation in the number of reported cases of COVID-19 predict near-term asset returns? To investigate, we look for a test acknowledging that the available sample is short and very noisy. Specifically:

  • To suppress noise, we use the 7-day moving average of U.S. COVID-19 cases.
  • To avoid measurement overlap, we calculate weekly changes in this average and compare these changes to next-week returns for SPDR S&P 500 Trust (SPY) and iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT).
  • To assess reliability of any relationship, we look at rolling 13-week correlations between weekly changes in COVID-19 data and next-week asset returns. While 13 weeks is a short measurement interval for noisy data, consistency in outputs would offer some confidence that there is a reliable relationship.

Using weekly (Friday) COVID-19 case data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and weekly (Friday close) dividend-adjusted SPY and TLT levels during late January 2020 (limited by COVID-19 data) through mid-September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

In Search of the Bear?

Is intensity of public interest in a “bear market” useful for predicting stock market return? To investigate, we download monthly U.S. Google Trends search intensity data for “bear market” and relate this series to monthly S&P 500 Index returns. For comparison with the “investor fear gauge,” we also relate search data to monthly CBOE option-implied S&P 500 Index volatility (VIX) levels. Google Trends analyzes a percentage of Google web searches to estimate the number of searches done over a certain period. “Each data point is divided by the total searches of the geography and time range it represents to compare relative popularity… The resulting numbers are then scaled on a range of 0 to 100 based on a topic’s proportion to all searches on all topics.” Using the specified data as of 9/14/2021 for the period January 2004 (earliest available on Google Trends) through August 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Researcher Motives

Do motives of financial market researchers justify strong skepticism of their findings? In his brief August 2021 paper entitled “Be Skeptical of Asset Management Research”, Campbell Harvey argues that economic incentives undermine belief in findings of both academic and practitioner financial market researchers. Based on his 35 years as an academic, advisor to asset management companies and editor of a top finance journal, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Panic Selling and Panic Sellers

How frequently and permanently do individual U.S. investors sell stocks in a panic? In their August 2021 paper entitled “When Do Investors Freak Out?: Machine Learning Predictions of Panic Selling”, Daniel Elkind, Kathryn Kaminski, Andrew Lo, Kien Wei Siah and Chi Heem Wong examine frequency, timing and duration of panic selling. They define panic selling as a drop of at least 90% in account equity value within a month, of which at least 50% is due to trading. They also estimate the opportunity of cost of panic selling. Finally, they apply deep neural network software to predict a month in advance which individuals will panic sell based on recent market conditions and investor demographics/financial history. Using account equity value and trade data for 653,455 individual U.S. brokerage accounts belonging to 298,556 households during January 2003 through December 2015, they find that:

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