Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for June 2024 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for June 2024 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

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.

Yield Curve as a Stock Market Indicator

Conventional wisdom holds that a steep yield curve (wide U.S. Treasuries term spread) is good for stocks, while a flat/inverted curve is bad. Is this wisdom correct and exploitable? To investigate, we consider in-sample tests of the relationships between several yield curve metrics and future U.S. stock market returns and two out-of-sample signal-based tests. Using average monthly yields for 3-month Treasuries (T-bill), 1-year Treasuries, 3-year Treasuries, 5-year Treasuries and 10-year Treasuries (T-note) as available since April 1953, monthly levels of the S&P 500 Index since April 1953 and monthly dividend-adjusted levels of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) since January 1993, all through March 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Growth Versus Value and Interest Rates

In his 2007 book The Little Book That Makes You Rich: A Proven Market-Beating Formula for Growth Investing, expert Louis Navellier hypothesizes that growth (value) stocks tend to do relatively better when interest rates are rising (falling). Growth stocks benefit from the economic expansions associated with rising rates. Value stocks benefit from refinancing opportunities as interest rates fall. To test this hypothesis, we compare the performances of the following paired growth and value exchange-traded funds (ETF) and mutual funds as interest rates, proxied by the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note (T-note), vary:

We consider both abstract predictive power based on correlation of changes in T-note yield with future fund returns and explicit performance of a strategy that switches between value and growth according to changes in T-note yield. Using end-of-month dividend-adjusted prices for the selected funds and contemporaneous T-note yield starting January 1983 for the mutual funds (limited by FDGRX) and May 2000 for the ETFs, all through February 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

CPI and Stocks Over the Short and Intermediate Terms

Do investors reliably react over short and intermediate terms to changes in the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI), a logical measure of the wealth discount rate? Using monthly total and core (excluding food and energy) CPI releases (for all items, not seasonally adjusted) from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and contemporaneous S&P 500 Index opens and closes during mid-January 1994 (earliest available CPI release dates) through mid-March 2023 (351 releases), we find that: Keep Reading

Weekly Economic Index and Asset Returns

The Weekly Economic Index (WEI) is a composite of weekly year-over-year percentage changes in 10 economic indicators: Redbook same-store sales; Rasmussen Consumer Index; new claims for unemployment insurance; continued claims for unemployment insurance; adjusted income/employment tax withholdings; railroad traffic originated; the American Staffing Association Staffing Index; steel production; wholesale sales of gasoline, diesel and jet fuel; and, weekly average US electricity load. Does WEI usefully predict U.S. stock market and government bond returns? To investigate, we relate WEI to performance data for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a proxy for the stock market and iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) as a proxy for government bonds. Since WEI measurements are nominally Saturdays but released mid-day the next Thursdays, we align its values with SPY and TLT prices as of the close on the next Thursdays. Using weekly data as described during January 2008 (limited by WEI) through mid-February 2023, we find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting Credit Standard Changes to Time the Stock Market

Can investors exploit information about business credit tightening/loosening as reported since 1990 in the Federal Reserve’s quarterly Senior Loan Officer Survey to time the U.S. stock market? In the January 2023 draft of his paper entitled “Profitable Timing of the Stock Market with the Senior Loan Officer Survey”, Linus Wilson examines the power of “Net Percentage of Domestic Banks Tightening Standards for Commercial and Industrial Loans to Large and Middle-Market Firms” to predict S&P 500 Index next-quarter returns. A positive (negative) reading means that credit conditions are tightening (loosening) for large and medium-sized firms. Specifically, he relates January survey results to subsequent April-June stock market returns, May survey results to July-September returns, August survey results to October-December returns and November survey results to January-March returns. He considers the full sample of 32 years, two subperiods of 15 years and three subperiods of 10 years. For portfolio tests, he uses the first 15-year subperiod to model allocation decisions to the S&P 500 Index/3-month U.S. Treasury bills (either long-short the stock index or long-only the index) and applies the model to a July 2005 through March 2022 test period. Using quarterly survey results, monthly S&P 500 Index levels and monthly estimated S&P 500 dividends (from Shiller’s data) during April 1990 through March 2022, he finds that: Keep Reading

Retail Sales Growth and Stock Market Returns

Do monthly retail sales data reliably predict U.S. stock market behavior? To investigate, we relate monthly change in retail sales to monthly S&P 500 Index return. We consider both seasonally adjusted (SA) and non-seasonally adjusted (NSA) retail sales series, as compiled by the the U.S. Census Bureau. Using monthly levels of retail sales and the S&P 500 Index during January 1992 (limited by retail sales data) through October 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

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

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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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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