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Allocations for July 2020 (Final)
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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.

Sunspot Cycle and Stock Market Returns

A reader asked whether Charles Nenner, self-described as “the talk of Wall Street since accurately predicting some of the biggest moves in the Markets over the past few years,” accurately forecasts equity and commodity markets. We consider the following:

  • In his July 2007 discussion of the “Nenner Methodology at the Bloomberg Studio”, Charles Nenner cites sunspot activity as a specific key indicator for equity returns. Per this source, he believes that the sunspot cycle correlates strongly with equity markets via the predictable effects of magnetic field disturbances on investors.
  • In “Sunspots Predict ‘Major Crisis’ After 2013: Chartist”, he states: “If there is a high intensity of sunspots, markets rise, if their intensity lowers, markets go down because sunspots affect people’s mood.”

Is there a reliable relationship between sunspot activity and stock market returns? Using monthly averages of daily sunspot counts and monthly levels of Shiller’s S&P Composite Index (also monthly averages of daily levels) during January 1871 (limited by the Shiller data) through October 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Pervasive Seasonal Relative Weakness Cycles?

Is there a flip side of cyclic relative weakness to the cyclic relative strength described in “Pervasive 12-Month (and 5-Day) Relative Strength Cycles?”? In their October 2018 paper entitled “Seasonal Reversals in Expected Stock Returns”, Matti Keloharju,Juhani Linnainmaa and Peter Nyberg test whether cyclic weakness (seasonal reversal) balances the cyclic strength (seasonality) effect. For example, if a stock is seasonally strong in March, it may be seasonally weak across other months. They test this hypothesis using actual monthly U.S. stock returns and simulated returns calibrated to actual returns. Specifically, they compute correlations between average historical returns for a stock during one month and the sum of its historical average returns during other months. In robustness tests, they repeat this test for 10-year subperiods and for daily U.S. stock returns, monthly non-U.S. stock returns, monthly country stock indexes, monthly country government bond indexes and monthly commodity returns. Finally, they construct the following three factors for U.S. stocks by first each month sorting stocks into two size groups (small and big market capitalizations) and then:

  1. Seasonality factor – Sorting each size group into three average same-calendar-month past return portfolios. The factor return is the difference in value-weighted returns between the two highest-average portfolios and the two lowest-average portfolios.
  2. Seasonal reversal factor – Sorting each size group into three average other-calendar-month past return portfolios within each size group. The factor return is the difference in value-weighted returns between the two lowest-average and the two highest-average portfolios.
  3. Annual-minus-non-annual factor – Sorting each size group into three portfolios based on the difference between the average same-calendar-month and other-calendar-month returns. The factor return is the difference in value-weighted returns between the two largest-difference and the two smallest-difference portfolios.

Using U.S. monthly and daily stock returns since 1963 and monthly returns for country stocks and stock market indexes, country government bond indexes and commodities since the end of 1974, all through 2016, they find that:

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U.S. Equity Turn-of-the-Month as a Diversifying Portfolio

Is the U.S. equity turn-of-the-month (TOTM) effect exploitable as a diversifier of other assets? In their October 2018 paper entitled “A Seasonality Factor in Asset Allocation”, Frank McGroarty, Emmanouil Platanakis, Athanasios Sakkas and Andrew Urquhart test U.S. asset allocation strategies that include a TOTM portfolio as an asset. The TOTM portfolio buys each stock at the open on the last trading day of each month and sells at the close on the third trading day of the following month, earning zero return the rest of the time. They consider four asset universes with and without the TOTM portfolio:

  1. A conventional stocks-bonds mix.
  2. The equity market portfolio.
  3. The equity market portfolio, a small size portfolio and a value portfolio.
  4. The equity market portfolio, a small size portfolio, a value portfolio and a momentum winners portfolio.

They consider six sophisticated asset allocation methods:

  1. Mean-variance optimization.
  2. Optimization with higher moments and Constant Relative Risk Aversion.
  3. Bayes-Stein shrinkage of estimated returns.
  4. Bayesian diffuse-prior.
  5. Black-Litterman.
  6. A combination of allocation methods.

They consider three risk aversion settings and either a 60-month or a 120-month lookback interval for input parameter measurement. To assess exploitability, they set trading frictions at 0.50% of traded value for equities and 0.17% for bonds. Using monthly data as specified above during July 1961 through December 2015, they find that:

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Recent Overnight-Intraday Stock Return Correlations

Do intraday U.S. stock returns still tend to reverse preceding overnight returns as found in prior research? In their August 2018 paper entitled “Overnight Return, the Invisible Hand Behind The Intraday Return? A Retrospective”, Ben Branch and Aixin Ma revisit prior research on the relationship between overnight and intraday returns of U.S. stocks. Specifically, they relate average intraday stock returns to preceding average overnight returns based on: (1) whether average overnight returns are positive or negative; and, (2) by ranked fourths (quartiles) of average overnight returns. They perform a separate regression analysis to isolate correlation effects among overnight, intraday and one-leg lagged overnight and intraday returns. Using daily open-to-close and close-to-open returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during January 2011 through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Turn of the Year and Size in U.S. Equities

Is there a reliable and material market capitalization (size) effect among U.S. stocks around the turn-of-the-year (TOTY)? To check, we track cumulative returns from 20 trading days before through 20 trading days after the end of the calendar year for the Russell 2000 Index, the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) since the inception of the Russell 2000 Index. We also look at full-month December and January returns for these indexes. Using daily and monthly levels of all three indexes from December 1987 through January 2018 (31 December and 31 January observations), we find that: Keep Reading

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

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

Unique U.S Equity ETF Seasonalities?

Do exchange-traded funds (ETF) exhibit unique calendar-based anomalies? In their April 2018 paper entitled “Evidence of Idiosyncratic Seasonality in ETFs Performance”, flagged by a subscriber, Carlos Francisco Alves and Duarte André de Castro Reis investigate calendar-based patterns of risk-adjusted returns and tracking errors for U.S. equity ETFs and compare findings to those of underlying indexes. They aggregate returns of their ETF sample via equal weighting. They consider returns calculated based on either market price or Net Asset Value (NAV). For risk adjustment, they consider alpha from either 1-factor (market) or 4-factor (market, size, book-to-market, momentum) risk models of stock returns. They look for raw return or alpha patterns in calendar months, calendar quarters, months of calendar quarters, calendar half-years, days before holidays (New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, George Washington’s Birthday, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas), days of the week and turn-of-the-month (last trading day of a month through three trading days of the next month). Using daily prices and NAVs for 148 index-tracking U.S. equity ETFs and associated indexes, and contemporaneous equity factor model returns, during December 2004 through December 2015 (11 years), they find that:

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