Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for May 2024 (Final)

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for May 2024 (Final)
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Economic Indicators

The U.S. economy is a very complex system, with indicators therefore ambiguous and difficult to interpret. To what degree do macroeconomics and the stock market go hand-in-hand, if at all? Do investors/traders: (1) react to economic readings; (2) anticipate them; or, (3) just muddle along, mostly fooled by randomness? These blog entries address relationships between economic indicators and the stock market.

Inflation Forecast Update

The Inflation Forecast now incorporates actual total and core Consumer Price Index (CPI) data for April 2024. The actual total (core) inflation rate is a little lower than (lower than) forecasted.

Testing IFED ETNs

“Invest with the Fed?” finds that indexes based on the Invest With the Fed (IFED) stock selection strategy beat reasonable benchmarks. How does that finding translate to investable assets? To investigate, we look at performances since inception of two exchange-traded note (ETN) offerings:

  1. ETRACS IFED Invest with the Fed TR Index ETN (IFED), with SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) as a benchmark.
  2. ETRACS 2X Leveraged IFED Invest with the Fed TR Index ETN (FEDL), with ProShares Ultra S&P500 (SSO) as a benchmark.

We focus on average monthly return, standard deviation of monthly returns, monthly reward/risk (average return divided by standard deviation), compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance metrics. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for IFED, SPY, FEDL and SSO during September 2021 through April 2024, we find that: Keep Reading

Invest with the Fed?

Does Federal Reserve (Fed) policy strongly and differently affect individual stock? In his April 2024 paper entitled “Navigating Federal Reserve Policy with IFED”, Rufus Rankin analyzes performance of the Invest With the Fed (IFED) stock selection strategy, which selects portfolios positioned to prosper across environments signaled by Fed actions. Specifically, the strategy selects individual equities based on 12 factors, adjusting weights of these factors based on Fed policy signals. The strategy rebalances with Fed policy changes or in June when there is no policy change for a year. He looks at two indexes representing different versions of the strategy:

  1. IFED US-Large Cap Index (IFED-L), with the S&P 500 Index (S&P 500) as a benchmark.
  2. IFED US Large-Cap Low Volatility Index (IFED-LV), with the S&P 500 Low Volatility Index (S&P 500 LV) as a benchmark.

Using monthly returns during April 2002 through September 2023, he finds that: Keep Reading

Combining Equity Market Stress and Sentiment Indications

Does combining widely used measures of equity market stress with news sentiment as interpreted by large language models such as ChatGPT support a robust risk-on/risk-off market timing strategy? In their April 2024 paper entitled “Stress Index Strategy Enhanced with Financial News Sentiment Analysis for the Equity Markets”, Baptiste Lefort, Eric Benhamou, Jean-Jacques Ohana, David Saltiel, Beatrice Guez and Thomas Jacquot test a risk-on/risk-off strategy for equity markets that combines:

  • A conventional stress index (SI) signal derived from VIX, the TED spread, a credit default swap (CDS) index and volatilities of major equity, bond and commodity markets. They standardize each measure, aggregate measures by asset class, average results across asset classes and normalize the average to fall between 0 and 1.
  • A ChatGPT 4 assessment of market sentiment from Bloomberg Daily Market Wraps over the past 10 days to determine whether it is above (risk-on) or below (risk-off) historical average.

They consider six strategies and apply them to the S&P 500 Index alone, the NASDAQ Index alone or an equal-weighted basket of S&P 500, NASDAQ, Nikkei, Euro Stoxx and Emerging Markets indexes:

  1. Buy-and-Hold the index or basket of indexes (benchmark).
  2. VIX: Risk-off when VIX is above its 80th percentile (about 26).
  3. SI: Weight stocks according to the SI signal alone.
  4. News: Hold stocks according to the Bloomberg Daily Market Wraps sentiment signal alone.
  5. SI+News: Weight stocks according to the product of SI and News signals.
  6. Dynamic SI+News: each month weight stocks using either the SI+News signal or the SI signal, whichever has the higher Sharpe ratio over the last 250 trading days.

For comparison, they retrospectively scale long-only benchmarks to have the same volatility as the best-performing active strategy. For all 18 strategy tests, they assume frictions of 0.02% on portfolio turnover. Using the specified SI inputs and daily stock index returns since January 2005, and Bloomberg Daily Market Wraps since 2010, all through December 2023, they find that:

Keep Reading

Expert Estimates of 2024 Country Equity Risk Premiums and Risk-free Rates

What are current estimates of equity risk premiums (ERP) and risk-free rates around the world? In their March 2024 paper entitled “Survey: Market Risk Premium and Risk-Free Rate used for 96 countries in 2024”, Pablo Fernandez, Diego García de la Garza and Javier Acin summarize results of a February 2024 email survey of international finance and economic professors, analysts and company managers “about the Risk-Free Rate and the Market Risk Premium (MRP) used to calculate the required return to equity in different countries.” Results are in local currencies. Based on 4,064 specific and credible premium estimates spanning 96 countries for which there are at least six estimates, they find that: Keep Reading

Recent Interactions of Asset Classes with Effective Federal Funds Rate

How do returns of different asset classes recently interact with the Effective Federal Funds Rate (EFFR)? We focus on monthly changes (simple differences) in EFFR  and look at lead-lag relationships between change in EFFR 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 end-of-month EFFR and dividend-adjusted prices for the 10 ETFs during December 2007 (limited by EMB) through March 2024, we find that: Keep Reading

Alternative Out-of-sample Money Anxiety Index Tests

“Using the Money Anxiety Index for ETF Selection” examines whether the proprietary Money Anxiety Index (MAI) can select long and short portfolios of ETFs that beat the S&P 500 Index (ignoring dividends). Test outputs are 5-year, 3-year and 1-year cumulative returns. A deeper look at performance may be helpful. We extend the test period by eight months and focus on the full period. We consider SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) with dividends as a benchmark. We also consider Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ), which has much affinity with the MAI-selected ETFs, as a benchmark. We compute monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using beginning-of-month, dividend-adjusted prices for the 10 ETFs in the MAI-generated portfolios and the two benchmarks from the beginning of May 2018 through the beginning of March 2024, we find that: Keep Reading

Using the Money Anxiety Index for ETF Selection

Does anxiety about having enough money play an important role in asset selection decisions, and thereby asset returns? In his March 2024 paper entitled “Money Anxiety Theory – a Predictor of Equity’s Performance”, Dan Geller tests the ability of his proprietary Money Anxiety Index (MAI) to identify long and short portfolios of ETFs that beat the S&P 500 Index. MAI consists of a group of major economic indicators published monthly by the U.S. Department of Commerce, selected because they meet the goodness-of-fit criteria of Structural Equation Modeling. The selected variables do not include any equity market series. Using monthly data, he relates MAI to prices of 697 exchange-traded funds (EFT) during an April 2010 through April 2018 in-sample period to select the five with the most negative correlations (long portfolio) and the five with the most positive correlations (short portfolio). He then compares returns for these long and short portfolios (no rebalancing) to that of the S&P 500 Index from the beginnings of May 2018, May 2020 or May 2022 through the beginning of May 2023. Using the specified beginning-of-month data during April 2010 through May 2023, he finds that:

Keep Reading

Expert Forecaster Inflation Forecasts

The inflation rate is a fundamental determinant of the discount rate used to calculate the present value of an asset. Changes in inflation therefore affect asset valuations. Do experts, as polled in the quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters, offer accurate U.S. inflation forecasts that thereby indicate asset valuation changes? Survey report release dates are mid-quarter. For example, the release date of the first quarter 2024 report is February 9, 2024, forecasting inflation for the next 12 months. Forecasts are either GDP-based or CPI-based. To test their accuracies, we relate these forecasts to actual CPI-based inflation rates 12 months later based on mid-quarter releases. Using quarterly forecast data since the second quarter of 1970 for GDP-based forecasts and the third quarter of 1981 for CPI-based forecasts and associated actual inflation rates, all through mid-February 2024, we find that: Keep Reading

Economic Trend Following

Is an investment strategy that follows trends in economic fundamentals (rather than asset prices) an attractive alternative to conventional momentum? In their January 2024 paper entitled “Economic Trend”, Jordan Brooks, Noah Feilbogen, Yao Hua Ooi and Adam Akant test a strategy that shifts allocations to equity, bond, currency and commodity futures/forwards series based on trends in five important global economic fundamentals, as follows:

  • Growth – 12-month change in GDP growth forecast (increasing growth is good for equities, currencies and commodities, but bad for bonds).
  • Inflation – 12-month change in CPI-based inflation forecasts (increasing inflation is good for currencies and commodities, but bad for equities and bonds).
  • International trade – 12-month change in local spot currency exchange rate versus an export-weighted basket (increasing international trade is good for equities, but bad for bonds, currencies and commodities).
  • Monetary policy – 12-month change in 2-year bond yield (increasing yield is good for currencies, but bad for equities, bonds and commodities).
  • Risk aversion – equal-weighted 12-month trailing stock market return and 12-month change in credit spread (increasing risk aversion is good for equities, currencies and commodities, but bad for bonds).

When the above variables are unavailable, they use substitutes. They consider: (1) single-class, equal risk-weighted portfolios based on all five economic fundamental trends; (2) single-fundamental portfolios positioned across all four asset classes; and, (3) an equal risk-weighted composite of all single-class portfolios (the full Economic Trend strategy). For comparison, they form similar portfolios based on equal-weighted 1-month, 3-month and 12-month trailing asset returns. Composite portfolios (both economic trend and price trend) each month target 10% constant volatility based on the last three years of asset class returns. Using economic fundamentals data and monthly prices as available for 15 global equity futures, 9 bond futures, 7 interest rate futures, 8 currency forwards and 20 commodity futures series during January 1970 through December 2022, they find that: Keep Reading

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