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Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2023 (Final)

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2023 (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.

Stocks-Bonds Return Correlation and Inflation

A subscriber asked whether the correlation between returns on stocks and bonds is elevated when inflation is above 5%, such that equities and fixed income offer little diversification protection. To investigate, we calculate the U.S. overall inflation rate from monthly values of the consumer price index over the prior year to find months with the inflation rate over 5%. We then compute monthly total return correlations for the following two pairs of funds when inflation is above or not above 5%:

  1. Fidelity Fund (FFIDX) and Fidelity Investment Grade Bond Fund (FBNDX).
  2. SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD).

Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for FFIDX and FBNDX since January 1980 and for SPY and LQD since July 2002, all through September 2022, we find that:

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Federal Reserve Treasuries Holdings and Asset Returns

Is the level, or changes in the level, of Federal Reserve (Fed) holdings of U.S. Treasuries (bills, notes, bonds and TIPS, measured weekly as of Wednesday) an indicator of future stock market and/or Treasuries returns? To investigate, we take dividend-adjusted SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) as tradable proxies for the U.S. stock and Treasuries markets, respectively. Using weekly Fed holdings of Treasuries, and SPY and TLT total returns during mid-December 2002 through late October 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Asset Class Reactions to Monthly Inflation Data

How do individual asset classes react to monthly inflation indications? To investigate, we relate future monthly returns for the following asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies to monthly changes in the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI):

  • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
  • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
  • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
  • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
  • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
  • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
  • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
  • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

Using monthly CPI data (all items) and monthly dividend-adjusted returns for the above 10 asset class proxy ETFs as available from July 2002 through September 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Equity Factors Come and Go with Economic Regimes?

Are many accepted equity factors/return anomalies artifacts of the secular decline in interest rates during their discovery sample periods? In their September 2022 paper entitled “The Factor Multiverse: The Role of Interest Rates in Factor Discovery”, Jules van Binsbergen, Liang Ma and Michael Schwert study the role of the secular decline in interest rates since the early 1980s in the discovery of equity factors/return anomalies. They use value-weighted long-short portfolios and monthly reformation for all factors/anomalies. They apply duration-matched fixed income portfolio return adjustments to returns for each anomaly portfolio to model returns for the latter if there had been no interest rate decline. They then classify each anomaly as false positive (present for unadjusted returns, but not adjusted returns), false negative (present for adjusted returns, but not unadjusted returns) or robust to the effect of interest rates (present for both unadjusted and adjusted returns). Using monthly returns for 153 accepted factors/anomalies over respective original test periods and for 1,395 potential undiscovered factors/anomalies based on firm accounting variables during July 1962 through December 2020, along with contemporaneous yield data for zero coupon U.S. Treasury bonds and notes, they find that:

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Should the “Anxious Index” Make Investors Anxious?

Since 1990, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia has conducted a quarterly Survey of Professional Forecasters. The American Statistical Association and the National Bureau of Economic Research conducted the survey from 1968-1989. Among other things, the survey solicits from experts probabilities of U.S. economic recession (negative GDP growth) during each of the next four quarters. The survey report release schedule is mid-quarter. For example, the release date of the third quarter 2022 report is August 12, 2022, with forecasts through the third quarter of 2023. The “Anxious Index” is the probability of recession during the next quarter. Are these forecasts meaningful for future U.S. stock market returns? Rather than relate the probability of recession to stock market returns, we instead relate one minus the probability of recession (the probability of good times). If forecasts are accurate, a relatively high (low) forecasted probability of good times should indicate a relatively strong (weak) stock market. Using survey results and quarterly S&P 500 Index levels (on survey release dates as available, and mid-quarter before availability of release dates) from the fourth quarter of 1968 through the third quarter of 2022 (216 surveys), we find that:

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SACEVS Input Risk Premiums and EFFR

The “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) seeks diversification across a small set of asset class exchanged-traded funds (ETF), plus a monthly tactical edge from potential undervaluation of three risk premiums:

  1. Term – monthly difference between the 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note) yield and the 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield.
  2. Credit – monthly difference between the Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds yield and the T-note yield.
  3. Equity – monthly difference between S&P 500 operating earnings yield and the T-note yield.

Premium valuations are relative to historical averages. How might this strategy react to changes in the Effective Federal Funds Rate (EFFR)? Using end-of-month values of the three risk premiums, EFFRtotal 12-month U.S. inflation and core 12-month U.S. inflation during March 1989 (limited by availability of operating earnings data) through August 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Market Return Reversal after FOMC Announcements

Does the U.S. stock market respond predictably to Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announcements, typically released between 14:00 and 14:20 EST? In the August 2022 version of their paper entitled “The FOMC Announcement Reversal”, Tommaso Baglioni and Ruy Ribeiro examine the relationship between pre-FOMC announcement returns and post-FOMC announcement returns. Specifically, they test a reversal strategy that buys (sells) E-mini S&P 500 just before announcement at 13:50 EST when the return during the 24 hours before the announcement is negative (positive) and closes the position at the end of the trading day. They buy at the ask and sell at the bid to account for trading frictions. They compute average cumulative return per round trip transaction and Sharpe ratio as average return divided by standard deviation (standardized to reflect one trading day and the number of hours the position is open). They consider two subperiods (October 1997 through March 2011 and April 2011 through January 2020). They also look at interactions of strategy performance with four measures of economic conditions: market uncertainty (VIX), economic policy uncertainty, monetary policy uncertainty and consumer sentiment. Using intraday E-mini S&P 500 prices, exact FOMC announcement release data and measures of economic conditions on FOMC announcement dates during mid-October 1997 through January 2020 (a total of 180 scheduled FOMC announcements), they find that:

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Expected Real T-note Gap and Future Asset Returns

Is the gap between the yield on the 10-year constant maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note) and the 10-Year breakeven inflation rate (a measure of expected inflation over the next 10 years derived from T-note yield and 10-Year Treasury inflation-indexed constant maturity securities yield) indicative of future stock market or U.S. Treasury bond yields? To investigate, we relate monthly values of this gap (the expected real T-note gap) and changes in the gap to future monthly returns for SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT). Using monthly values for the four series during January 2003, limited by the breakeven inflation rate series, through July 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Best Model of Future Stock Market Returns?

Which variables deserve greatest focus when predicting stock market returns? In their July 2022 paper entitled “Searching for the Best Conditional Equity Premium Model”, Hui Guo, Saidat Sanni and Yan Yu exhaustively explore combinations of 18 previously identified potential stock market return predictors to isolate the most powerful subset. They focus on a best subset selection method with a penalty on complexity, thereby suppressing data snooping bias and selecting a manageable subset. For robustness, they consider four alternative variable selection methods. Using quarterly U.S. data for these 18 variables and S&P 500 Index levels/returns during 1947 through 2020, they find that: Keep Reading

Economic Policy Uncertainty and the Stock Market

Does quantified uncertainty in government economic policy reliably predict stock market returns? To investigate, we consider the U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index, created by Scott Baker, Nicholas Bloom and Steven Davis and constructed from three components:

  1. Coverage of policy-related economic uncertainty by prominent newspapers.
  2. Number of temporary federal tax code provisions set to expire in future years.
  3. Level of disagreement in one-year forecasts among participants in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters for both (a) the consumer price index (CPI) and (b) purchasing of goods and services by federal, state and local governments.

They normalize each component by its own standard deviation prior to 2012 and then compute a weighted average of components, assigning a weight of one half to news coverage and one sixth each to tax code uncertainty, CPI forecast disagreement and government purchasing forecast disagreement. They update the index monthly at the beginning of the following month, potentially revising recent months. Using monthly levels of the EPU Index and the S&P 500 Index during January 1985 through July 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

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