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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.

U.S. Corporate Bond Yield-based Momentum

Is there pervasive yield momentum among U.S. corporate bonds? In their November 2016 paper entitled “Is Momentum Spanned Over Corporate Bonds of Different Ratings?”, Hai Lin, Chunchi Wu and Guofu Zhou investigate whether momentum exists in all segments of the U.S. corporate bond market. Their approach to momentum measurement is unconventional, involving cross-sectional regression of bond returns on multiple simple moving averages (SMA) of bond yields. They call their result “trend momentum” to distinguish it from conventional momentum based on simple past return. Specifically, they each month:

  1. Calculate yield SMAs over the last 1, 3, 6, 12, 24, 36, 48 and 60 months for each bond.
  2. Regress returns for all bonds on respective prior-month yield SMAs to generate correlations (betas) between returns and past yield SMAs, thereby dynamically determining relative importance of yield SMA measurement intervals.
  3. Calculate expected (for next month) yield SMA betas as average calculated betas over the past 12 months.
  4. Estimate expected return (for next month) for each bond based on current yield SMAs and expected yield SMA betas.
  5. Rank bonds based on expected returns into fifths (quintiles) or tenths (deciles).
  6. Calculate gross trend momentum factor return as the difference in average (equal-weighted) actual returns between quintiles/deciles with the highest and lowest expected returns.

Using yields, returns, ratings and other characteristics for a broad sample of U.S. corporate bonds during January 1973 through September 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Seasonal Effects in Government Bonds Worldwide?

Do government bond returns worldwide exhibit seasonal effects analogous to those of stock market returns? In their August 2016 draft paper entitled “Seasonality in Government Bond Returns and Factor Premia”, Adam Zaremba and Tomasz Schabek investigate seasonal patterns in government bond returns across countries, focusing on regression tests of January and sell-in-May (May-October versus November-April) effects. They also examine whether four bond risk premiums (volatility, credit risk, value and momentum), each specified in multiple ways and measured via long-short portfolios formed from monthly sorts, exhibit these two seasonal effects. Using monthly total return bond indexes hedged against the U.S. dollar spanning 25 countries and allocated to five term ranges (1-3 years, 3-5 years, 5-7 years, 7-10 years and 10+ years) during January 1992 through June 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Bogle’s Razor

How (and what) does John Bogle think about the stock and bond markets over the next decade? In their October 2015 article entitled “Occam’s Razor Redux: Establishing Reasonable Expectations for Financial Market Returns”, flagged by a subscriber, John Bogle and Michael Nolan revisit simple models for expected stock market and government bond returns first published in 1991. The stock market model distinguishes between: (1) investment return, defined as initial dividend yield plus expected annual earnings growth rate; and, (2) speculative return, defined as annual percentage change in price-to-earnings ratio (P/E). The government bond model uses the initial interest rate as a reasonable expectation for return over the life of the bond. In both models, the investment horizon is a decade. They update performances of the models to include the 25 years since publication and apply them to determine expectations for stock and bond market returns over the decade ahead. Using data for the stock market since 1871 and for 10-year U.S. Treasury notes (or equivalent) since 1915, both through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Long-term Tests of Intrinsic Momentum Across Asset Classes

Does time series (intrinsic or absolute) momentum work across asset classes prior to the Great Moderation (secular decline in interest rates)? In their August 2016 paper entitled “Trend Following: Equity and Bond Crisis Alpha”, Carl Hamill, Sandy Rattray and Otto Van Hemert test several time series momentum portfolios as applied to groups of bonds, commodities, currencies and equity indexes as far back as 1960. They consider 10 developed country equity indexes, 11 developed country government bond series, 25 agricultural/energy/metal futures series and nine U.S. dollar currency exchange rate series. They calculate return momentum for each asset as the weighted sum of its past monthly returns (up to 11 months) divided by the normalized standard deviation of those monthly returns. They then divide each signal again by volatility and apply a gearing factor to specify a 10% annual volatility target for each holding. Within each of equity index, bond and currency groups, they weight components equally. Within commodities, they weight agriculture, energy and metal sectors equally after weighting individual commodities equally within each sector. They report strategy performance based on excess return, roughly equal to real (inflation-adjusted) return. They commence strategy performance analyses in 1960 to include an extreme bond bear market. Using monthly price series that dovetail futures/forwards from inception with preceding spot (cash) data as available starting as early as January 1950 and as late as April 1990, all through 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Globalization Effects on Asset Return Comovement

Is global diversification within asset classes disappearing as worldwide economic and financial integration increases? In their August 2016 paper entitled “Globalization and Asset Returns”, Geert Bekaert, Campbell Harvey, Andrea Kiguel and Xiaozheng Wang examine whether economic and financial integration increases global comovement of country equity, bond and currency exchange market returns. They examine three measures of return comovement for each asset class: average pairwise correlation, average beta relative to the world market and average idiosyncratic volatility. They apply these measures separately to developed markets and emerging markets. Using monthly equity, bond and currency exchange market returns in U.S. dollars for 26 developed markets and 32 emerging markets as available from various inceptions through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Add Equity Style Momentum Underlay to SACEVS?

A subscriber proposed adding an equity style momentum underlay to the Best Value version of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS). SACEVS each month allocates all capital to the one of the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) corresponding to the most undervalued of the term, credit and equity risk premiums at prior month end, or to cash if no premium is undervalued:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

The proposed momentum underlay chooses SPY, iShares S&P 500 Value (IVE) or iShares S&P 500 Growth (IVW) based on highest five-month past return whenever the equity risk premium is most undervalued. Based on availability of inputs for month-end risk premium estimates, return calculations are based on closing prices for the first trading day of the next month. Using SACEVS premium estimate inputs since March 1989, first trading day of the month dividend-adjusted closes for SPY, IVE and IVW since IVE-IVW inception in May 2000 and first trading day of the month dividend-adjusted closes for IEF and LQD since their inception in July 2002, all through July 2016, we find that:

Keep Reading

Best Government Bonds?

Are high-yield government bonds good bets? In his January 2016 paper entitled “Finding Yield in A 2% World”, Mebane Faber applies a simple value metric to global government bonds. He specifies a value portfolio as the equally weighted third (Top 33%) of 30 government bonds with the highest nominal yields, reformed/rebalanced monthly. He considers two benchmarks: (1) an equally weighted portfolio of all 30 bonds (Equal Weight); and, (2) a GDP-weighted index of 10-year government bonds of 17 non-U.S. developed countries (Foreign 10-year). He also considers performance of U.S. government Treasury bills (T-bills), 10-year notes and 30-year bonds. Using monthly total returns for the specified bonds in U.S. dollars during 1950 through 2012, he finds that: Keep Reading

Analyst Disagreement on Risk-free Rate and Equity Risk Premium

What do company valuation experts think about the level of the risk-free rate and the equity risk premium? In their October 2015 paper entitled “Huge Dispersion of the Risk-Free Rate and Market Risk Premium Used by Analysts in 2015”, Pablo Fernandez, Alberto Pizarro and Isabel Acín summarize assumptions about the risk-free rate (RF) and the market/equity risk premium (MRP or ERP) used by expert analysts to value companies in six countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK and U.S.). Using 156 company valuation reports from 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Frontier Government Bonds as Diversifiers

Are frontier government bonds useful as incremental diversifiers of diversified portfolios? In their September 2015 paper entitled “Frontier and Emerging Government Bond Markets”, Vanja Piljak and Laurens Swinkels examine the diversification value of U.S. dollar-denominated frontier government bonds at aggregate, regional and country levels. They first look at return correlations and then consider mean-variance portfolio optimization with global equities, U.S. Treasury bonds, U.S. high-yield corporate bonds, emerging government bonds and frontier government bonds. Using weekly total returns in U.S. dollars for 29 frontier government bond markets in the J.P. Morgan Next Generation Markets Index and for other J.P. Morgan bond indexes and the MSCI All Country World Index during December 2001 through December 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS Modifications

We have made three changes to the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) based on results of  robustness tests and subscriber comments:

  1. To employ fresher data, we decrease the SACEVS S&P 500 Index level and bond/bill yield measurement interval from quarterly to monthly. S&P 500 Index operating earnings updates are still quarterly.
  2. To employ fresher data, we use end-of-measurement interval (end-of-month) bond/bill yields rather than average yields during the measurement interval.
  3. To account for a lag in availability of bill/bond yield data, we delay signal execution by one trading day.

These changes are logical, but introduce some additional noise. They result in somewhat higher risk-adjusted performance for SACEVS, at the expense of some additional trading. Effects on the Weighted version of the strategy are greater than those on the Best Value version.

We are updating “Value Strategy” and some related tests accordingly.

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