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Isolating Desirable Turnover via Separate Alpha and Beta Portfolios

Does separating the active (alpha) and passive (market exposure, or beta) components of an overall equity investment strategy, thereby isolating turnover, reduce overall tax burden? In their May 2018 paper entitled “The Tax Benefits of Separating Alpha from Beta”, Joseph Liberman, Clemens Sialm, Nathan Sosner and Lixin Wang investigate the tax implications of separating alpha from beta for equity investments. Specifically, they compare two quantitative investment strategies:

  1. Conventional long-only – overweights (underweights) stocks with favorable (unfavorable) multi-factor exposures within a single portfolio.
  2. Composite long-short – allocates separately to a passive (index fund) portfolio and to an active long-short portfolio targeting multi-factor exposures but with no exposure to the market.

They design these competing strategies so that aggregate exposures to the market and target factors, and thus pre-tax returns, are similar. They consider three target factors: value (60-month reversion) and momentum (from 12 months ago to one month ago), together and separately; and, short-term (1-month) reversal only separately. Their base simulation model has: 8% average annual market return with 15% volatility; 2% average incremental annual return for each target factor with 4% volatility; and, 180% annual turnover for value, momentum and value-momentum and 1200% annual turnover for short-term reversal. Their test methodology involves 100 iterations of: simulating a multifactor return distribution of 500 stocks; then, simulating portfolios of these stocks with monthly factor rebalancing for 25 years. They assume long-term (short-term) capital gain tax rate 20% (35%) and a highest-in, first-out disposition method for rebalancing. Based on the specified simulations, they find that: Keep Reading

Bollinger Bands: Buy Low and Sell High?

Are Bollinger Bands (BB) useful for specifying when to buy low and when to sell high the overall U.S. stock market? In other words, can an investor beat a buy-and-hold strategy by systematically buying (selling) when the market crosses below (above) the lower (upper) BB? To check, we examine the historical behavior of BBs around the 21-trading day (one month) simple moving average (SMA) of S&P 500 SPDR (SPY) as a tradable proxy for the U.S. stock market. We consider BB settings ranging from 0 to 2.5 standard deviations of daily returns, calculated over the same trailing 21 trading days. Using daily unadjusted closes of of SPY (to calculate BBs), dividend-adjusted closes of SPY (to calculate total returns) and contemporaneous yields for 3-month Treasury bills (T-bill) from the end of January 1993 (SPY inception) through early May 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Beware Changes in Firm Financial Reporting Practices?

Do changes in firm financial reporting practices signal bad news to come? In the February 2018 update of their paper entitled “Lazy Prices”, Lauren Cohen, Christopher Malloy and Quoc Nguyen investigate relationships between changes in firm financial reporting practices (SEC 10-K, 10-K405, 10-KSB and 10-Q filings) and future firm/stock performance. They focus on quarter-to-quarter changes in content bases on four distinct textual similarity metrics. Each month, they rank all firms into fifths (quintiles) for each of the four metrics. They then compute equally weighted or value-weighted returns for these quintiles over future months (such that there are overlapping portfolios for each quintile and each metric), with stock weights within quintile portfolios rebalanced monthly for equal weighting. They measure the effect of changes in financial reporting practices as monthly return for a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the quintile with the smallest (greatest) past changes. Using the specified quarterly and annual SEC filings by U.S. corporations from the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval (EDGAR) database and corresponding monthly stock returns during 1995 through 2014, they find that:

Keep Reading

Intrinsic Momentum or SMA for Avoiding Crashes?

A subscriber suggested comparing intrinsic momentum (IM), also called absolute momentum and time series momentum, to simple moving average (SMA) as alternative signals for equity market entry and exit. To investigate across a wide variety of economic and market conditions, we measure the long run performances of entry and exit signals from IM over past intervals of one to 12 months (IM1 through IM12) and SMAs ranging from 2 to 12 months (SMA2 through SMA12. We consider two cases for IM signals: (1) in stocks (cash) when past return is positive (negative); and, (2) in stocks (cash) when average monthly past return is above (below) the average monthly risk-free rate, proxied by the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield, over the same measurement interval. The rule for SMAs is: in stocks (cash) when current level is above (below) the SMA. Using monthly T-bill yield and monthly level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) during January 1934 through April 2018 (over 84 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Is There Really an Size Effect?

Do small market capitalization stocks really outperform big ones, as strongly implied by the prominence of the size effect in published research and factor models? In their May 2018 paper entitled “Fact, Fiction, and the Size Effect”, Ron Alquist, Ronen Israel and Tobias Moskowitz survey the body of research on the size effect and employ simple tests to assess claims made about it. Based on published and peer-reviewed academic papers and on tests using data for U.S. stocks and equity factor premiums, international developed and emerging market stocks and stock indexes, U.S. bonds and various currencies as available through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 6/4/18 – 6/8/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 6/4/18 through 6/8/18. 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

Industry vs. Academia on Asset Quality

How well do different measures of stock quality perform as portfolio screens? In the May 2018 update of paper entitled “Does Earnings Growth Drive the Quality Premium?”, Georgi Kyosev, Matthias Hanauer, Joop Huij and Simon Lansdorp review commonly used quality definitions, test their respective powers to predict stock returns and analyze usefulness in constructing international stocks and corporate bonds settings. They consider the following definitions of quality:

  • Industry – return on equity (ROE); earnings-to-sales ratio (margin); annual growth in ROE; total debt-to-common equity (leverage); and, earnings variability.
  • Academia – gross profitability; accruals; and, net stock issues.

To compare predictive powers, at the end of each month they rank assets into fifths (quintiles) based on each metric and examine equally weighted performances of these quintiles. They calculate gross annualized average excess returns (relative to the risk-free rate) and gross annualized Sharpe ratios for the top and bottom quintiles and the difference between these two quintiles (top-minus-bottom). They also calculate four-factor (market, size, book-to-market and momentum) alphas for top-minus-bottom portfolios. They further analyze equally weighted combinations of all industry metrics and all academic metrics. They consider the largest stocks globally, regionally and from emerging markets. For robustness, they also consider samples of investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (with a 12-month rather than one-month holding interval). Using samples of relatively large non-financial common stocks for developed markets (starting December 1985) and emerging markets (starting December 1992) and samples of investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (starting January 1994) through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Firm Sales Seasonality as Stock Return Predictor

Do firms with predictable sales seasonality continually “surprise” investors with good high season (bad low season) sales and thereby have predictable stock return patterns? In their May 2018 paper entitled “When Low Beats High: Riding the Sales Seasonality Premium”, Gustavo Grullon, Yamil Kaba and Alexander Nuñez investigate firm sales seasonality as a stock return predictor. Specifically, for each quarter, after excluding negative and zero sales observations, they divide quarterly sales by annual sales for that year. To mitigate impact of outliers, they then average same-quarter ratios over the past two years. They then each month:

  1. Use the most recent average same-quarter, two-year sales ratio to predict the ratio for next quarter for each firm.
  2. Rank firms into tenths (deciles) based on predicted sales ratios.
  3. Form a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the market capitalization-weighted stocks of firms in the decile with the lowest (highest) predicted sales ratios.

Their hypothesis is that investors undervalue (overvalue) stocks experiencing seasonally low (high) sales. They measure portfolio monthly raw average returns and four alphas based on 1-factor (market), 3-factor (market, size, book-to-market), 4-factor (adding momentum to the 3-factor model) and 5-factor (adding profitability and investment to the 3-factor model) models of stock returns. Using data for a broad sample of non-financial U.S common stocks during January 1970 through December 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Unemployment Rate and Stock Market Returns

The financial media and expert commentators sometimes cite the U.S. unemployment rate as an indicator of economic and stock market health, generally interpreting a jump (drop) in the unemployment rate as bad (good) for stocks. Conversely, investors may interpret a falling unemployment rate as a trigger for increases in the Federal Reserve target interest rate (and adverse stock market reactions). Is this indicator in fact predictive of U.S. stock market behavior in subsequent months, quarters and years? Using the monthly unemployment rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index data for the period January 1950 through April 2018 (820 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Employment and Stock Market Returns

U.S. job gains or losses are a prominent element of the monthly investment-related news cycle, with the financial media and expert commentators generally interpreting changes in employment as an indicator of future economic and stock market health. One line of reasoning is that jobs generate personal income, which spurs personal consumption, which boosts corporate earnings and lifts the stock market. Are employment trends in fact predictive of U.S. stock market behavior in subsequent months, quarters and years? Using monthly seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index data for the period January 1950 through April 2018 (820 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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