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Excluding Bad Stock Factor Exposures

The many factor-based indexes and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) that track them now available enable investors to construct multi-factor portfolios piecemeal. Is such piecemeal construction suboptimal? In their July 2018 paper entitled “The Characteristics of Factor Investing”, David Blitz and Milan Vidojevic apply a multi-factor expected return linear regression model to explore behaviors of long-only factor portfolios. They consider six factors: value-weighted market, size, book-to-market ratio, momentum, operating profitability and investment(change in assets). Their model generates expected returns for each stock each month, and further aggregates individual stock expectations into factor-portfolio expectations holding all other factors constant. They use the model to assess performance differences between a group of long-only single-factor portfolios and an integrated multi-factor portfolio of stocks based on combined rankings across factors. The focus on gross monthly excess (relative to the 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield) returns as a performance metric. Using data for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks among the top 80% of NYSE market capitalizations and priced at least $1 during June 1963 through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Active Investment Managers and Market Timing

Do active investment managers as a group successfully time the stock market? The National Association of Active Investment Managers (NAAIM) is an association of registered investment advisors. “NAAIM member firms who are active money managers are asked each week to provide a number which represents their overall equity exposure at the market close on a specific day of the week, currently Wednesdays. Responses can vary widely [200% Leveraged Short; 100% Fully Short; 0% (100% Cash or Hedged to Market Neutral); 100% Fully Invested; 200% Leveraged Long]. Responses are tallied and averaged to provide the average long (or short) position or all NAAIM managers, as a group [NAAIM Exposure Index].” Using historical weekly survey data and weekly Wednesday-to-Wednesday dividend-adjusted returns for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) over the period July 2006 through late June 2018 (622 surveys), we find that: Keep Reading

Are Low Volatility Stock ETFs Working?

Are low volatility stock strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider eight of the largest low volatility ETFs, all currently available, in order of longest to shortest available histories:

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the low volatility stock ETFs and their benchmark ETFs as available through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Isolating Ends of Stock Booms and Panics?

Does sentiment on StockTwits and Twitter social media platforms usefully predict returns for individual stocks? In their June 2018 paper entitled “Momentum, Mean-Reversion and Social Media: Evidence from StockTwits and Twitter”, Shreyash Argarwal, Pablo Azar, Andrew Lo and Taranjit Singh analyze relationships between stock price behaviors and real-time measures of sentiment uniquely attributable to StockTwits and Twitter in three ways:

  1. Linear regressions for a sample of 4,544 stocks that each day relate volume and liquidity metrics for each stock to aggregate news and social media sentiments for that stock measured either during the same trading day (9:30AM to 4:00PM, for coincident relationships) or during preceding non-trading hours (4:00AM to 9:30AM, for predictive relationships).
  2. An intraday event study for a subsample of 500 large-capitalization stocks that examines stock trading behaviors when associated bullish and bearish social media sentiment reaches extreme levels.
  3. A backtest of an intraday mean reversion strategy applied to the 500 companies with the highest average volumes over the previous 200 days (with no more than 30% from a single sector) that exploits the power of social media sentiment to predict mean reversion. Every 30 minutes, this strategy buys (sells) stocks with negative (positive) returns over the preceding 30 minutes, with weights elevated for stocks with high StockTwits and Twitter message volume over the preceding 30 minutes.

Using the RavenPack Composite Sentiment Score to measure conventional stock sentiment, minute-by-minute StockTwits and Twitter-with-retweets data from PsychSignal to measure social media sentiment, and trade/quote data for 4,544 stocks during 2011 through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Explaining Warren Buffett’s Performance

Is Warren Buffett’s track record explicable and replicable? In the June 2018 update of their paper entitled “Buffett’s Alpha”, Andrea Frazzini, David Kabiller and Lasse Pedersen model Warren Buffett’s exceptional investing performance based on replicating exposures of Berkshire Hathaway overall and of its publicly traded holdings to six factors. Four of the factors are those conventionally used to explain stock returns: market return, size, book-to-market ratio and momentum. The other two factors are betting-against-beta (buy low beta and avoid high beta) and quality (profitable, growing, dividend-paying). They further create portfolios that track Berkshire Hathaway’s factor exposures, leveraged to the same active risk as Berkshire Hathaway. Using monthly stock returns and accounting data for a broad sample of U.S. stocks, quarterly Berkshire Hathaway SEC Form 13F holdings and monthly returns for six factors specified above during October 1976 through March 2017, along with contemporaneous open-end active mutual fund performance data, they find that:

Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 7/9/18 – 7/13/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 7/9/18 through 7/13/18. 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

Monthly Returns During Presidential and Congressional Election Years

Do the hopes and fears of elections in the U.S. affect the “normal” seasonal variation in monthly stock market returns? To check, we compare average returns and variabilities (standard deviations of returns) by calendar month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) during years with and without quadrennial U.S. presidential elections and biennial congressional elections. Using monthly closes for the DJIA over the period October 1928 through May 2018 (nearly 90 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for June 2018. The actual total (core) inflation rate for June is a little lower than (about the same as) forecasted.

Simple Term Structure ETF/Mutual Fund Momentum Strategy

Does a simple relative momentum strategy applied to tradable U.S. Treasury term structure proxies produce attractive results by picking the best duration for exploiting current interest rate trend? To investigate, we run short-term and long-term tests. The short-term test employs four exchange-traded funds (ETF) to represent the term structure:

SPDR Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill (BIL)
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY)
iShares Barclays 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)

The second test employs three Vanguard mutual funds to represent the term structure:

Vanguard Short-Term Treasury Fund (VFISX)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Fund (VFITX)
Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Fund (VUSTX)

For each test, we allocate all funds at the end of each month to the fund with the highest total return over a specified ranking (lookback) interval, ranging from one month to 12 months. To accommodate the longest lookback interval, portfolio formation commences 12 months after the start of the sample. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance metrics. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for BIL since May 2007, for SHY, IEF and TLT since July 2002 and for VFISX, VFITX and VUSTX since October 1991, all through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Simple Debt Class Mutual Fund Momentum Strategy

A subscriber requested confirmation of the performance of a simple momentum strategy that each month selects the best performing debt mutual fund based on total return over the past three months. To investigate, we test a simple strategy on the following 12 mutual funds (those with the longest histories from a proposed list of 14 funds):

T. Rowe Price New Income (PRCIX)
Thrivent Income A (LUBIX)
Vanguard GNMA Securities (VFIIX)
T. Rowe Price High-Yield Bonds (PRHYX)
T. Rowe Price Tax-Free High Yield Bonds (PRFHX)
Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Bonds (VUSTX)
T. Rowe Price International Bonds (RPIBX)
Fidelity Convertible Securities (FCVSX)
PIMCO Short-Term A (PSHAX)
Fidelity New Markets Income (FNMIX)
Eaton Vance Government Obligations C (ECGOX)
Vanguard Long-Term Bond Index (VBLTX)

We consider a strategy that allocates funds at the end of each month based on total returns over a specified ranking (lookback) interval to the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2, EW Top 3, EW Top 4 or EW Top 5 funds. We determine the first winners in November 1988 so that at least nine funds are available for lookback interval sensitivity testing. As a benchmark, we use the equally weighted and monthly rebalanced combination of all available funds (EW All). Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the 12 mutual funds from inceptions through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

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