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Calendar Effects

The time of year affects human activities and moods, both through natural variations in the environment and through artificial customs and laws. Do such calendar effects systematically and significantly influence investor/trader attention and mood, and thereby equity prices? These blog entries relate to calendar effects in the stock market.

Simple Tests of Sy Harding’s Seasonal Timing Strategy

Does the technically adjusted Seasonal Timing Strategy popularized some years ago in Sy Harding’s Street Smart Report Online (now unavailable due to Mr. Harding’s death) generate attractive performance? This strategy combines “the market’s best average calendar entry [October 16] and exit [April 20] days with a technical indicator, the Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD).” According to Street Smart Report Online, applying this strategy to a Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) index fund generated a cumulative return of 213% during 1999 through 2012, compared to 93% for the DJIA itself. To check over a longer sample period with an alternative market proxy, we apply the strategy to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) since its inception and consider several alternatives, as follows:

  1. SPY – buy and hold SPY.
  2. Seasonal-MACD – seasonal timing per specified dates with MACD refinement, holding cash when not in SPY.
  3. Seasonal Only – seasonal timing per the same dates without MACD refinement, again holding cash when not in SPY.
  4. SMA200 – hold SPY (cash) when the S&P 500 Index is above (below) its 200-day simple moving average at the prior daily close. 

For all strategies, we use the yield on short-term U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) as the return on cash. Using daily closes for the S&P 500 Index, dividend-adjusted closes for SPY and T-bill yield during 1/29/93 (SPY inception) through 5/13/19, we find that: Keep Reading

Momentum Strategy, Value Strategy and Trading Calendar Updates

We have updated monthly Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) winners and associated performance data at “Momentum Strategy”. We have updated monthly Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) allocations and associated performance data at “Value Strategy”. We have also updated performance data for the “Combined Value-Momentum Strategy”.

We have updated the “Trading Calendar” to incorporate data for May 2019.

Test of Seasonal Risk Adjustment Strategy

A subscriber requested review of a strategy that seeks to exploit “Sell in May” by switching between risk-on assets during November-April and risk-off assets during May-October, with assets specified as follows:

On each portfolio switch date, assets receive equal weight with 0.25% overall penalty for trading frictions. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) measured at 6-month intervals and Sharpe ratio measured at 6-month intervals as key performance statistics. As benchmarks, we consider buying and holding SPY, IWM or TLT and a 60%-40% SPY-TLT portfolio rebalanced frictionlessly at the ends of April and October (60-40). Using April and October dividend-adjusted closes of SPY, IWM, PDP, TLT and SPLV as available during October 2002 (first interval with at least one risk-on and one risk-off asset) through April 2019, and contemporaneous 6-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Returns Around Memorial Day

Does the Memorial Day holiday signal any unusual U.S. stock market return effects? By its definition, this holiday brings with it any effects from three-day weekends and sometimes the turn of the month. Prior to 1971, the U.S. celebrated Memorial Day on May 30. Effective in 1971, Memorial Day became the last Monday in May. To investigate the possibility of short-term effects on stock market returns around Memorial Day, we analyze the historical behavior of the stock market during the three trading days before and the three trading days after the holiday. Using daily closing levels of the S&P 500 Index for 1950 through 2018 (69 observations), we find that: Keep Reading

Does the Turn-of-the-Month Effect Work for Asset Classes?

Does the Turn-of-the-Month Effect, a concentration of positive stock market returns around the turns of calendar months, work across a broad set of asset classes. To investigate, we measure turn-of-the-month (TOTM) returns for the following nine asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) used in the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” and the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy”:

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)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)

We define TOTM as the eight-trading day interval from the close five trading days before the first trading day of a month to the close on the fourth trading day of the month. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes for these ETFs from their respective inceptions (ranging from February 1993 for SPY to February 2006 for DBC) through March 2019 (158-314 TOTMs), we find that: Keep Reading

Does the Turn-of-the-Month Effect Work for Sectors?

A reader inquired whether the Turn-of-the-Month Effect, a concentration of positive stock market returns around the turns of calendar months, works for U.S. stock market sectors. To investigate, we measure turn-of-the-month (TOTM) returns for the nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) defined by the Select Sector Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR), all of which have trading data back to December 1998:

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 define TOTM as the eight-trading day interval from the close five trading days before the first trading day of a month to the close on the fourth trading day of the month. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes for the sector ETFs and for S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) as a benchmark from December 1998 through March 2019 (244 TOTMs), we find that: Keep Reading

“Sell in May” Over the Long Run

Does the conventional wisdom to “Sell in May” (and “Buy in November”, hence also the term “Halloween Effect”) work over the long run, perhaps due to biological/psychological effects of seasons (Seasonal Affective Disorder)? To check, we turn to the long run dataset of Robert Shiller. This data set includes monthly levels of the S&P Composite Index, calculated as average of daily closes during the month. We split the investing year into two half-years (seasons): May through October, and November through April. Using S&P Composite Index levels, associated dividend yields and contemporaneous long-term interest rates (comparable to yields on 10-year U.S. Treasury notes) from the Shiller dataset spanning April 1871 through April 2019 (296 6-month returns), we find that: Keep Reading

Long-term SMA and TOTM Combination Strategy

“Turn-of-the-Month Effect Persistence and Robustness” indicates that average absolute returns during the turn-of-the-month (TOTM) are strong for both bull and bear markets. Does a strategy of capturing all bull market returns and TOTM returns only during bear markets perform well? To investigate, we apply four strategies to S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) as a tradable proxy for the stock market:

  1. Buy and hold SPY.
  2. Hold SPY (cash) when SPY closes above (below) its 200-day simple moving average (SMA200).
  3. Hold SPY from the close five trading days before through the close four trading days after the last trading day of each month and cash at all other times (TOTM).
  4. Hold SPY when SPY closes above its 200-day SMA and otherwise use the TOTM strategy (SMA200 or TOTM).

We explore sensitivities of these strategies to a range of one-way SPY-cash switching frictions, with baseline 0.1%. Using daily dividend-adjusted closing levels of SPY from inception (January 1993) through early April 2019 and contemporaneous 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yields, we find that: Keep Reading

Turn-of-the-Month Effect Persistence and Robustness

Is the Turn-of-the-Month (TOTM) effect, a concentration of relatively strong stock market returns around the turns of calendar months, persistent over time and robust to different market conditions. Does it exist for all calendar months? Does it persist throughout the U.S. political cycle? Does it work for different equity indexes? To investigate, we define TOTM as the interval from the close five trading days before to the close four trading days after the last trading day of the month (a total of eight trading days, centered on the monthly close). Using daily closes for the S&P 500 Index during January 1950 through early March 2019 (831 TOTMs) and for the Russell 2000 Index during September 1987 through March 2019 (379 TOTMs), we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Returns Around Easter

Does the seasonal shift marked by the Easter holiday, with the U.S. stock market closed on the preceding Good Friday, produce anomalous returns? To investigate, we analyze the historical behavior of the S&P 500 Index before and after the holiday. Using daily closing levels of the S&P 500 index for 1950-2018 (69 events), we find that: Keep Reading

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