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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.

Distinct and Predictable U.S. and ROW Equity Market Cycles?

A subscriber asked: “Some pundits have noted that U.S. stocks have greatly outperformed foreign stocks in recent years. What does the performance of U.S. stocks vs. foreign stocks over the last N years say about future performance?” To investigate, we use the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the U.S. stock market and the ACWI ex USA Index as a proxy for the rest-of-world (ROW) equity market. We consider three ways to relate U.S. and ROW equity returns:

  1. Lead-lag analysis between U.S. and ROW annual returns to see whether there is some cycle in the relationship.
  2. Multi-year correlations between U.S. and next-period ROW returns, with periods ranging from one to five years.
  3. Sequences of end-of-year high water marks for U.S. and ROW equity markets.

For the first two analyses, we relate the U.S. stock market to itself as a control (to assess whether ROW market behavior is distinct). Using end-of-year levels of the S&P 500 Index and the ACWI ex USA Index during 1987 (limited by the latter) through 2017, we find that: Keep Reading

Lunar Cycle and Stock Returns

Does the lunar cycle still (since our last look seven years ago) affect the behavior of investors/traders, and thereby influence stock returns? In the August 2001 version of their paper entitled “Lunar Cycle Effects in Stock Returns” Ilia Dichev and Troy Janes conclude that: “returns in the 15 days around new moon dates are about double the returns in the 15 days around full moon dates. This pattern of returns is pervasive; we find it for all major U.S. stock indexes over the last 100 years and for nearly all major stock indexes of 24 other countries over the last 30 years.” To refine this conclusion and test recent data, we examine U.S. stock returns around new and full moons since 1990. When the date of a new or full moon falls on a non-trading day, we assign it to the nearest trading day. Using dates for new and full moons for January 1990 through August 2018 as listed by the U.S. Naval Observatory (355 full and 354 new moons) and contemporaneous daily closing prices for the S&P 500 Index, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Market and the National Election Cycle

Some stock market experts cite the year (1, 2, 3 or 4) of the U.S. presidential term cycle as a useful indicator of U.S. stock market returns. Game theory suggests that presidents deliver bad news immediately after being elected and do everything in their power to create good news just before ensuing biennial elections. Are some presidential term cycle years reliably good or bad? If so, are these abnormal returns concentrated in certain quarters? Finally, what does the stock market do in the period immediately before and after a national election? Using daily and monthly S&P 500 Index levels from January 1950 through August 2018 (nearly 69 years and about 17 presidential terms) and focusing on “political quarters” (Feb-Apr, May-Jul, Aug-Oct and Nov-Jan), we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Returns Around Labor Day

Does the Labor Day holiday, marking the end of summer vacations, signal any unusual return effects by refocusing U.S. stock investors on managing their portfolios? By its definition, this holiday brings with it any effects from the turn of the month. To investigate the possibility of short-term effects on stock market returns around Labor 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 2017 (68 observations), we find that: Keep Reading

Bonds During the Off Season?

As implied in “Mirror Image Seasonality for Stocks and Treasuries?”, are bonds better than stocks during the “Sell-in-May” months of May through October? Are behaviors of government, corporate investment grade and corporate high-yield bonds over this interval similar? To investigate, we test seasonal behaviors of:

SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury (VFITX)
Fidelity Investment Grade Bond (FBNDX)
Vanguard High-Yield Corporate Bond (VWEHX)

Using dividend-adjusted monthly prices for these funds during January 1993 (limited by SPY) through July 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS with Quarterly Allocation Updates

Do quarterly allocation updates for the Best Value and Weighted versions of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) work as well as monthly updates? These strategies allocate funds to the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) according to valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums, or to cash if no premiums are undervalued:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

Changing from monthly to quarterly allocation updates does not sacrifice information about lagged quarterly S&P 500 Index earnings, but it does sacrifice currency of term and credit premiums. To assess alternatives, we compare cumulative performances and the following key metrics for quarterly and monthly allocation updates: gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR), gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and annual returns and volatilities. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closes for the above ETFs during September 2002 (earliest alignment of months and quarters) through June 2018, we find that:

Keep Reading

Monthly Returns During Presidential and Congressional Election Years

Do the hopes and fears of elections in the U.S. affect the “normal” seasonal variation in monthly stock market returns? To check, we compare average returns and variabilities (standard deviations of returns) by calendar month for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) during years with and without quadrennial U.S. presidential elections and biennial congressional elections. Using monthly closes for the DJIA over the period October 1928 through May 2018 (nearly 90 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Style Performance by Calendar Month

Trading Calendar presents full-year and monthly cumulative performance profiles for the overall stock market (S&P 500 Index) based on its average daily behavior since 1950. How much do the corresponding monthly behaviors of the various size and value/growth styles deviate from an overall equity market profile? To investigate, we consider the the following six exchange-traded funds (ETF) that cut across capitalization (large, medium and small) and value versus growth:

iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) – large capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF) – large capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS) – mid-capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP) – mid-capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN) – small capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO) – small capitalization growth stocks.

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the style ETFs and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period August 2001 through May 2018 (202 months, limited by data for IWS/IWP), we find that: Keep Reading

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

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

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