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Unemployment Claims Reports and Near-term Stock Market Returns

Each week the media report U.S. initial and continued unemployment claims (seasonally adjusted) as a potential indicator of future U.S. stock market returns. Do these indicators move the market? To investigate, we focus on weekly changes in unemployment claims during a period of “modern” information dissemination to release-day and next-week stock market returns. By modern period, we mean the history of S&P Depository Receipts (SPY), a proxy for the U.S. stock market. Using relevant news releases and archival data as available from the Department of Labor (DOL) and dividend-adjusted weekly and daily opening and closing levels for SPY during late January 1993 through mid-July 2018 (1,330 weeks), we find that:

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Sector Breadth as Market Return Indicator

Does breadth of equity sector performance predict overall stock market return? To investigate, we relate next-month stock market return to the number of sectors with positive past returns over lookback intervals ranging from 1 to 12 months. We consider the following nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) offered as Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) to represent the overall stock market. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY and the sector ETFs during December 1998 through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

ADP Employment Report and Stock Returns

Since May 2006, the ADP National Employment Report has released a monthly estimate of U.S. nonfarm private sector employment growth using actual payroll data. The report is designed “to predict private-sector employment prior to the release of the CES [Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Current Employment Statistics survey] report.” Do the ADP estimates affect or predict U.S. stock market returns on the release day or over the next month? To investigate, we consider both as-released (from press releases) and as-revised ADP data (from the extended downloadable historical dataset). Using monthly ADP report release dates and as-released employment growth estimates commencing April 2006, historically modeled ADP employment growth estimates commencing April 2002 and contemporaneous daily opening/closing and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) through early July 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Gold Timing Strategies

Are there any gold trading strategies that reliably beat buy-and-hold? In their April 2018 paper entitled “Investing in the Gold Market: Market Timing or Buy-and-Hold?”, Viktoria-Sophie Bartsch, Dirk Baur, Hubert Dichtl and Wolfgang Drobetz test 4,095 seasonal, 18 technical, and 15 fundamental timing strategies for spot gold and gold futures. These strategies switch at the end of each month as signaled between spot gold or gold futures and U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill) as the risk-free asset. They assume trading frictions of 0.2% of value traded. To control for data snooping bias, they apply the superior predictive ability multiple testing framework with step-wise extensions. Using monthly spot gold and gold futures prices and T-bill yield during December 1979 through December 2015, with out-of-sample tests commencing January 1990, they find that:

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Multi-class Momentum Portfolio with “Canary” Crash Protection

Is it suboptimal to employ the same asset class proxy universe both to exploit momentum and to avoid crashes? In their July 2018 paper entitled Breadth Momentum and the Canary Universe: Defensive Asset Allocation (DAA)”, Wouter Keller and Jan Willem Keuning modify their Vigilant Asset Allocation (VAA) by substituting a separate “canary” asset class universe for crash protection based on breadth momentum (percentage of assets advancing). VAA is a dual momentum asset class strategy specifying momentum as the average of annualized total returns over the past 1, 3, 6 and 12 months, implemented as follows:

  1. Each month rank asset class proxies based on momentum.
  2. Each month select a “cash” holding as the one of short-term U.S. Treasury, intermediate-term U.S. Treasury and investment grade corporate bond funds with the highest momentum. 
  3. Set (via backtest) a breadth protection threshold (B). When the number of asset class proxies with negative momentum (b) is equal to or greater than B, the allocation to “cash” is 100%. When b is less than B, the base allocation to “cash” is b/B.
  4. Set (via backtest) the number of top-performing asset class proxies to hold (T) in equal weights. When the base allocation to “cash” is less than 100% (so when b<B), allocate the balance to the top (1-b/B)T asset class proxies with highest momentum (irrespective of sign).
  5. Mitigate portfolio rebalancing intensity (when B and T are different) by rounding fractions b/B to multiples of 1/T.

DAA replaces step 3 with breadth protection calculated the same way but based on a separate, simpler asset universe, selected experimentally from pre-1971 data based on a unique indicator that that combines compound annual growth rate (R) and maximum drawdown (D). The aim of DAA is to lower the average cash allocation fraction compared to VAA while preserving crash protection. They describe assets in terms of existing exchange-traded funds (ETF) but use best available matching indexes prior to ETF inceptions. Using monthly return data for alternative canary assets during 1926-1970, for backtest (in-sample) DAA universe parameter optimization during 1971-1993 and for out-of-sample DAA universe testing during 1994 through March 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Weekly Summary of Research Findings: 7/23/18 – 7/27/18

Below is a weekly summary of our research findings for 7/23/18 through 7/27/18. 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

SACEMS Portfolio-Asset Addition Testing

Does adding an exchange-traded fund (ETF) or note (ETN) to the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) boost performance via consideration of more trending/diversifying options? To investigate, we add the following 23 ETF/ETN asset class proxies one at a time to the base set and measure effects on the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 SACEMS portfolios:

AlphaClone Alternative Alpha (ALFA)
JPMorgan Alerian MLP Index (AMJ)
Vanguard Total Bond Market (BND)
SPDR Barclays International Treasury Bond (BWX)
UBS ETRACS Wells Fargo Business Development Companies (BDCS)
iShares Core US Credit Bond (CRED)
First Trust US IPO Index (FPX)
PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest (DBV)
iShares JPMorgan Emerging Market Bond Fund (EMB)
Guggenheim Frontier Markets (FRN)
iShares iBoxx High-Yield Corporate Bond (HYG)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares Latin America 40 (ILF)
iShares National Muni Bond ETF (MUB)
PowerShares Closed-End Fund Income Composite (PCEF)
PowerShares Global Listed Private Equity (PSP)
IQ Hedge Multi-Strategy Tracker (QAI)
SPDR Dow Jones International Real Estate (RWX)
ProShares UltraShort S&P 500 (SDS)
iShares TIPS Bond (TIP)
United States Oil (USO)
iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures (VXX)
iPath S&P 500 VIX Medium-Term Futures (VXZ)

The base set consists of:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

Each month, we rank the base set plus one of the additional ETFs/ETNs based on past return and reform the SACEMS portfolios. The sample starts with the first month all base set ETFs are available (February 2006), but inceptions for most of the additional ETFs/ETNs are after this month. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics, ignoring monthly reformation costs. Using end-of-month total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified 32 assets as available during February 2006 through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Index Earnings-returns Lead-lag

A subscriber asked about the lead-lag relationship between S&P 500 earnings and S&P 500 Index returns. To investigate, we relate actual aggregate S&P 500 operating and as-reported earnings to S&P 500 Index returns at both quarterly and annual frequencies. Earnings forecasts are available well in advance of returns. Actual earnings releases for a quarter occur throughout the next quarter. Using quarterly S&P 500 earnings and index levels during March 1988 through March 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEMS Portfolio-Asset Exclusion Testing

Are all of the potentially trending/diversifying asset class proxies used in the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) necessary? Might one or more of them actually be harmful to performance? To investigate, we each month rank the following assets based on past return with one excluded (nine separate test series) and reform the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 SACEMS portfolios:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

The test starts with the first month all ETFs are available (February 2006). We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics, ignoring monthly portfolio reformation costs. Using end-of-month total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified nine assets during February 2006 through June 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on The Geometry of Wealth

Brian Portnoy introduces his 2018 book, The Geometry of Wealth: How To Shape A Life Of Money And Meaning, by stating that the book is: “…a story told in three parts,…from purpose to priorities to tactics. Each step has a primary action associated with it. The first is adaptation. The second is prioritization. The third is simplification. …The principle that motors us along the entire way is what I call ‘adaptive simplicity,’ a means of both rolling with the punches and and cutting through the noise.” Based on his two decades of experience in the mutual fund and hedge fund industries, including interactions with many investors, along with considerable cited research (much of it behavioral), he concludes that: Keep Reading

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