Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for June 2024 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for June 2024 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

Bonds

Bonds have two price components, yield and response of price to prevailing interest rates. How much of a return premium should investors in bonds expect? How can investors enhance this premium? These blog entries examine investing in bonds.

All Stocks All the Time?

Is the the conventional retirement portfolio glidepath as recommended by many financial advisors, away from stocks and toward bonds over time, really optimal? In their October 2023 paper entitled “Beyond the Status Quo: A Critical Assessment of Lifecycle Investment Advice”, Aizhan Anarkulova, Scott Cederburg and Michael O’Doherty present a lifecycle income/wealth model using stationary block bootstrap simulations (average block length 120 months to preserve long-term behaviors) with labor income uncertainty, Social Security income, longevity uncertainty and historical monthly returns for stock indexes, government bonds and government bills across developed countries. They apply this model to estimate outcomes for several age-dependent, monthly rebalanced portfolios of stocks and bonds, including a representative target-date fund (TDF), as well as some fixed-percentage allocation strategies. They focus on a U.S. couple (a female and a male) who save during working years starting at age 25 and consume Social Security income and savings starting at age 65 with constant real 4% annual withdrawals. They evaluate four outcomes: (1) wealth at retirement; (2) retirement income; (3) conservation of savings; and, (4) bequest at death. Using monthly (local) real returns for domestic stock indexes, international stock indexes, government bonds and government bills as available for 38 developed countries during 1890 through 2019, they find that:

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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 the current interest rate trend? To investigate, we run short-term and long-term tests. The short-term test employs five 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 3-7 Year Treasury Bond (IEI)
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 IEI since January 2007, for SHY, IEF and TLT since July 2002 and for VFISX, VFITX and VUSTX since October 1991, all through September 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Are Target Retirement Date Funds Attractive?

Do target retirement date funds, offering glidepaths that shift asset allocations away from equities and toward bonds as target dates approach, safely generate attractive returns? To investigate, we consider seven such mutual funds offered by Vanguard, as follows:

We consider as benchmarks SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) and both 80-20 and 60-40 monthly rebalanced SPY-LQD combinations. We look at monthly and annual return statistics, including compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD). Using monthly total returns for SPY, LQD, three target retirement date funds since October 2003 and four target retirement date funds since June 2006 (limited by Vanguard inception dates), all through September 2023, we find that:

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SACEVS Input Risk Premiums and EFFR

The “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) seeks diversification across a small set of asset class exchanged-traded funds (ETF), plus a monthly tactical edge from potential undervaluation of three risk premiums:

  1. Term – monthly difference between the 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note) yield and the 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield.
  2. Credit – monthly difference between the Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds yield and the T-note yield.
  3. Equity – monthly difference between S&P 500 operating earnings yield and the T-note yield.

Premium valuations are relative to historical averages. How might this strategy react to changes in the Effective Federal Funds Rate (EFFR)? Using end-of-month values of the three risk premiums, EFFRtotal 12-month U.S. inflation and core 12-month U.S. inflation during March 1989 (limited by availability of operating earnings data) through September 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS-SACEMS for Value-Momentum Diversification

Are the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) and the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) mutually diversifying. To check, based on feedback from subscribers about combinations of interest, we look at three equal-weighted (50-50) combinations of the two strategies, rebalanced monthly:

  1. 50-50 Best Value – EW Top 2: SACEVS Best Value paired with SACEMS Equally Weighted (EW) Top 2 (aggressive value and somewhat aggressive momentum).
  2. 50-50 Best Value – EW Top 3: SACEVS Best Value paired with SACEMS EW Top 3 (aggressive value and diversified momentum).
  3. 50-50 Weighted – EW Top 3: SACEVS Weighted paired with SACEMS EW Top 3 (diversified value and diversified momentum).

We consider as a benchmark a simple technical strategy (SPY:SMA10) that holds SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) when the S&P 500 Index is above its 10-month simple moving average and 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (Cash, or T-bills) when below. We also test sensitivity of results to deviating from equal SACEVS-SACEMS weights. Using monthly gross returns for SACEVS, SACEMS, SPY and T-bills during July 2006 through July 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Do Convertible Bond ETFs Attractively Meld Stocks and Bonds?

Do exchange-traded funds (ETF) that hold convertible corporate bonds offer attractive performance? To investigate, we compare performance statistics for the following four convertible bond ETFs, all currently available, to those for a monthly rebalanced 60%-40% combination of SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD):

  1. SPDR Bloomberg Convertible Securities ETF (CWB)
  2. iShares Convertible Bond ETF (ICVT)
  3. First Trust SSI Strategic Convertible Securities ETF (FCVT)
  4. American Century Quality Convertible Securities ETF (QCON)

We focus on average return, standard deviation of returns, reward/risk (average return divided by standard deviation of returns), compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD), all based on monthly data. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for all specified ETFs since inceptions and for SPY and LQD over matched sample periods, all through July 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock and Bond Returns Correlation Determinants

What conditions affect the correlation between stock and bond returns, a critical input to asset allocation decisions? In their July 2023 paper entitled “Empirical Evidence on the Stock-Bond Correlation”, Roderick Molenaar, Edouard Senechal, Laurens Swinkels and Zhenping Wang relate changes in this correlation to economic variables and analyze the implications of such changes for stock-bond portfolios. They employ rolling 36-month Spearman rank correlations for stock market and 10-year government bond returns to detect correlation changes. While considering longer periods, they focus on post-1952 monthly and post-1978 daily U.S. data (after Federal Reserve independence) as most representative of the future. Using stock and bond returns and economic data starting 1875 for the U.S., 1801 for the UK, 1871 in France and 1987 for Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan, all through 2021, they find that:

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Recent Interactions of Asset Classes with Inflation (CPI)

How do returns of different asset classes recently interact with inflation as measured by monthly change in the not seasonally adjusted, all-items consumer price index (CPI) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? To investigate, we look at lead-lag relationships between change in CPI and returns for each of the following 10 exchange-traded fund (ETF) asset class proxies:

  • Equities:
    • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
    • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
    • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
    • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • Bonds:
    • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
    • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
    • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Real assets:
    • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
    • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
    • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

Using monthly total CPI values and monthly dividend-adjusted prices for the 10 specified ETFs during December 2007 (limited by EMB) through June 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Evaluating Country Investment Risk

How should global investors assess country sovereign bond and equity risks? In his July 2023 paper entitled “Country Risk: Determinants, Measures and Implications – The 2023 Edition”, Aswath Damodaran examines country risk from multiple perspectives. To estimate a country risk premium, he considers measurements of both country government bond risk and country equity risk. Based on a variety of sources and methods, he concludes that: Keep Reading

TIP as Return Predictor Across Asset Classes

“Simplified Offensive, Defensive and Risk Mode Identification Momentum Strategy” describes a strategy that each month holds offensive (defensive) assets when average return on iShares TIPS Bond ETF (TIP) over the past 1, 3, 6 and 12 months is positive (negative). Is past return of TIP, which purely impounds investor expectations for U.S. inflation, a reliable indicator of future asset class returns? To investigate, we relate TIP returns to future returns for each of the following exchange-traded fund (ETF) asset class proxies:

  • Equities:
    • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
    • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
    • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
    • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • Bonds:
    • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
    • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
    • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Real assets:
    • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
    • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
    • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

We consider both linear correlation and non-linear ranking tests. We look at TIP returns over the past 1, 3, 6 and 12 months separately, and as an average of these past returns (average past TIP return). Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for TIP and the above asset class proxies as available during December 2003 (limited by TIP) through February 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

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