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Hedge Fund Industry: Declining Performance and Increasing Risk?

Is the hedge fund industry an alpha-generating juggernaut? Does it even really offer a “hedge?” In their March 2006 paper entitled “Hedge Funds: Performance, Risk and Capital Formation”, William Fung, David Hsieh, Narayan Naik and Tarun Ramadorai investigate performance, risk and capital flows within the hedge fund industry over the past ten years. Using a comprehensive dataset of 1,603 Funds-of-Hedge-Funds (FoFs) covering the period 1995-2004, they find that: Keep Reading

Classic Research: Separating Cash Flow and Discount Rate Contributions to Stock Returns

We have selected for retrospective review a few all-time “best selling” research papers of the past few years from the General Financial Markets category of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Here we summarize the August 2003 paper entitled “Bad Beta, Good Beta” (download count over 1,700) by John Campbell and Tuomo Vuolteenaho. In this research, the authors separate stock beta into two components, one reflecting news about cash flows and one reflecting news about discount rates. They apply this decomposition to explain the size effect and the value premium. They hypothesize that:

[Market] “value…may fall because investors receive bad news about future cash flows; but it may also fall because investors increase the discount rate…that they apply to these cash flows. In the first case, wealth decreases and investment opportunities are unchanged, while in the second case, wealth decreases but future investment opportunities improve. …[A]n investor may demand a higher premium to hold assets that covary with the market’s cash-flow news than to hold assets that covary with news about the market’s discount rates, for poor returns driven by increases in discount rates are partially compensated by improved prospects for future returns. …The required return on a stock is determined not by its overall beta with the market, but by its bad cash-flow beta and its good discount-rate beta. Of course, the good beta is good not in absolute terms, but in relation to the other type of beta.” [Underlining is ours.]

Using monthly returns from an early period (January 1929 through June 1963) and a modern period (July 1963 through December 2001) to test this idea, the authors conclude that: Keep Reading

Global Diversification: By Country or Industry?

With increasing business globalization and financial markets integration, can equity investors still get good risk reduction by diversifying their portfolios across country markets? Or, have other kinds of diversification become more important? In their paper entitled “The Changing Roles of Industry and Country Effects in the Global Equity Markets”, Kate Phylaktis and Lichuan Xia examine the evolution of country and industry effects on stock returns and diversification. Using weekly returns from the Dow Jones Global Indexes (DJGI) encompassing 4,801 companies in 51 industry groups across 34 countries over the period 1992 to 2001, they find that: Keep Reading

Earnings, Inflation and Stock Returns

In their February 2003 paper entitled “Stock Returns, Aggregate Earnings Surprises, and Behavioral Finance”,  Jonathan Lewellen, S. Kothari and Jerold Warner explore the relationships between overall stock market behavior and aggregate corporate earnings, looking for parallels with firm-level price-earnings behavior. Using quarterly data for 1970-2000, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Odds of Winning as an Active Trader

How active are active traders? What are the odds that an active trader will make a profit? How are winners different from losers? In their recent paper entitled “The Profitability of Active Stock Traders”, Ryan Garvey and Anthony Murphy examine the outcomes for a large group of active traders over a three-month period. Using data for over 400,000 trades by 1,386 day traders from a direct access broker in the U.S. over the period March 8, 2000 through June 13, 2000 (68 trading days), they find that: Keep Reading

Diversification for “Peak” Performance

How many stocks are enough for the long-term investor to diversify stock-picking risks? Conventional wisdom says that 8 to 20 stocks are enough. In their recent paper entitled “Diversification in Portfolios of Individual Stocks: 100 Stocks Are Not Enough”, Dale Domian, David Louton and Marie Racine examine the risk that long-term buy-and-hold stock portfolios will fall short of some minimum return goal. They use portfolios of different sizes constructed from a real sample of 1,000 U.S. stocks (the 100 largest by market capitalization in each of 10 industries) over the 20-year period from January 1985 through December 2004, inserting comparable replacements for the hundreds of delistings that occur in the sample (mostly due to mergers). They find that: Keep Reading

Training for the Investor/Trader Hurdles

Investors and traders face three hurdles on the track to success: (1) developing a workable strategy/methodology as a foundation for decision-making; (2) persistently performing the research needed to reconfirm/improve/adapt the strategy; and, (3) overcoming emotional temptations to ditch strategy and research by succumbing to fear or greed.  Keep Reading

Why Highly Volatile Stocks Tend to Underperform

Conventional wisdom holds that: (1) risk begets reward; and, (2) volatility is a manifestation of risk. Exceptionally high volatility in individual stock prices should, therefore, indicate future excess returns in those stocks. In their May 2006 paper entitled “The Relation between Time-Series and Cross-Sectional Effects of Idiosyncratic Variance on Stock Returns in G7 Countries”, Hui Guo and Robert Savickas investigate why the realized idiosyncratic volatility (beta) of individual stocks correlates negatively with future returns — why there is a penalty instead of a reward for this apparent risk. Using two sets of U.S. data (1926-2005 and 1963-2005) and one set of international data (1973-2003), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Capturing the Value Premium by Avoiding Institutional Ownership

Which cheap (high book-to-market value) stocks drive the value premium? Can investors capture the value premium by simply buying a broad index of value stocks, or should they focus on some easily identifiable subset. The paper “Institutional Ownership and the Value Premium” by Ludovic Phalippou from April 2005 evaluates level of institutional ownership as the driver of the value premium, hypothesizing that mispricing of stocks is mostly like to come from unsophisticated individual investors. Using data for 1980-2001, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Market-Leading Industries

Do certain industries tend to lead or lag stock market cycles? In the November 2004 update of their paper entitled “Do Industries Lead the Stock Market?”, Harrison Hong, Walter Torous and Rossen Valkanov investigate whether returns from some industries predict future returns for the overall stock market. The authors hypothesize that the overall market only gradually recognizes valuable information contained in the returns of specific industries. Using U.S. data for 1946-2002 and international data for 1973-2002, they conclude that: Keep Reading

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