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Bringing Order to the Factor Zoo?

From a purely statistical perspective, how many factors are optimal for explaining both time series and cross-sectional variations in stock anomaly/stock returns, and how do these statistical factors relate to stock/firm characteristics? In their July 2018 paper entitled “Factors That Fit the Time Series and Cross-Section of Stock Returns”, Martin Lettau and Markus Pelger search for the optimal set of equity factors via a generalized Principal Component Analysis (PCA) that includes a penalty on return prediction errors returns. They apply this approach to three datasets:

  1. Monthly returns during July 1963 through December 2017 for two sets of 25 portfolios formed by double sorting into fifths (quintiles) first on size and then on either accruals or short-term reversal.
  2. Monthly returns during July 1963 through December 2017 for 370 portfolios formed by sorting into tenths (deciles) for each of 37 stock/firm characteristics.
  3. Monthly excess returns for 270 individual stocks that are at some time components of the S&P 500 Index during January 1972 through December 2014.

They compare performance of their generalized PCA to that of conventional PCA. Using the specified datasets, they find that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 8/13/18 – 8/17/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 8/13/18 through 8/17/18. 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.

Subscribers: To receive these weekly digests via email, click here to sign up for our mailing list. Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Buy the Fear, Sell the Greed

Larry Connors introduces his 2018 book, Buy the Fear, Sell the Greed: 7 Behavioral Quant Strategies for Traders, by stating in Chapter 1 that the book shows when, where and how: “…to trade directly against traders and investors who are having…feelings of going crazy and impending doom. …The goal of this book is to make you aware of when and why short-term market edges exist in stocks and in ETFs, and then give you the quantified strategies to trade them. …Thirty years ago, when a news event would occur, it could take days to assimilate it. …The only thing that’s changed is the timing of their emotion; today it occurs faster and at times is more extreme primarily due to the role the media (and especially social media) plays in disseminating the news that triggers this behavior.” Based on analyses of specific trading setups using data through 2017, he finds that: Keep Reading

RSP/SPY as a Stock Market Breadth Indicator

A reader proposed: “I recently found something interesting while analyzing the ratio of the equal-weighted S&P 500 Index to its market capitalization-weighted counterpart. Whenever this ratio declines (out of an uptrend), the market crashes (July 2007, September-October 2008, July 2011). Also, when this ratio starts rising, the recovery commences (April 2009). The indicator seems to warn of problematic times ahead. …Perhaps this ratio provides insight into whether money is moving into the market (ratio rising) or out of the market (ratio falling). Could you take a look at this to see whether this ratio is a great indicator?” To investigate, we use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and Invesco S&P 500 Equal Weight (RSP) as tradable proxies for the capitalization-weighted and equal-weighted S&P 500 Index, respectively. Using weekly dividend-adjusted prices of SPY and RSP from the end of April 2003 (limited by RSP) through July 2018 (796 weeks), we find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting Informed Long and Short Trades

In the June 2018 draft of their paper entitled “An Information Factor: Can Informed Traders Make Abnormal Profits?”, Matthew Ma, Xiumin Martin, Matthew Ringgenberg and Guofu Zhou construct and test a long-short information factor (INFO) based on observed trading of firm insiders, short sellers and option traders. Specifically, the INFO portfolio:

  • Is each month long the 10% (decile) of stocks with the highest levels of net buying (purchases minus sales) by top managers scaled by the average number of shares held by all top managers over the calendar year.
  • Is each month short stocks based on both short interest (number of shares short divided by shares outstanding) and associated option trading activity (volume of liquid put and call options divided by volume of associated stock). They sort stocks independently on short interest and option trading activity, add the two ranks for each stock and short the decile of stocks with the highest combined ranks.

They further examine whether INFO  is a key driver of hedge fund returns. Using monthly data for specified variables, monthly returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks priced over $5 and monthly returns for 13 hedge fund indexes and 5,565 individual U.S. equity hedge funds during February 1996 (limited by options data) through December 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Economic Policy Uncertainty and the Stock Market

Does quantified uncertainty in government economic policy reliably predict stock market returns? To investigate, we consider the U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index, created by Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom and Steven Davis and constructed from three components: (1) coverage of policy-related economic uncertainty by prominent newspapers: (2) the number of temporary federal tax code provisions set to expire in future years; and, (3) the level of disagreement in one-year forecasts among participants in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters for both (a) the consumer price index (CPI) and (b) purchasing of goods and services by federal, state and local governments. They first normalize each component by its own standard deviation prior to January 2012. They then compute a weighted average of components, assigning a weight of one half to news coverage and one sixth each to tax code uncertainty, CPI forecast disagreement and government purchasing forecast disagreement. They update the EPU index monthly with a delay of about one month, including revisions to recent months. Using monthly levels of the EPU Index and the S&P 500 Index during January 1985 through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Heads I Win, Tails You Lose

Patrick Donohoe introduces his 2018 book, Heads I Win, Tails You Lose: A Financial Strategy to Reignite the American Dream, by stating that the book: “…will teach you many of the principles and strategies to help discover your own path to financial freedom. Most importantly, it will show you the mindset required to carry out a successful plan. …almost everything you will gain from this book conflicts with what the typical financial planner, financial celebrity, and most financial publications tell you to do. …You will…discover how to pivot the foundation of your wealth to…the private mutual insurance company.” Based on his experience, market research and many examples, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 8/6/18 – 8/10/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 8/6/18 through 8/10/18. 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.

Subscribers: To receive these weekly digests via email, click here to sign up for our mailing list. Keep Reading

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for July 2018. The actual total (core) inflation rate for July is a little higher than (a little higher than) forecasted.

Stock Market Valuation Ratio Trends

To determine whether the stock market is expensive or cheap, some experts use aggregate valuation ratios, either trailing or forward-looking, such as earnings-price ratio (E/P) and dividend yield. Operating under a belief that such ratios are mean-reverting, most imminently due to movement of stock prices, these experts expect high (low) future stock market returns when these ratios are high (low). Where are the ratios now? Using the most recent actual and forecasted earnings and dividend data from Standard & Poor’s, we find that: Keep Reading

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