Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for February 2023 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for February 2023 (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.

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 late October 2021 (334 releases), we find that: Keep Reading

Quit Rate and Future Asset Returns

Does the U.S. employment quit rate, a measurement from the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey run monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, have implications for future U.S. stock market or U.S. Treasury bond return? A high (low) quit rate may indicate a strong (weak) economy and/or may signal high (low) wage inflation. To investigate, we relate quit rate to future performance of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a proxy for the stock market and of iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) as a proxy for government bonds. Using monthly quit rate (which has a release delay of about six weeks) during December 2000 through August 2021 and monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY and TLT as available during December 2000 through September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Public Debt, Inflation and the Stock Market

When the U.S. government runs substantial deficits, some experts proclaim the dollar’s inevitable inflationary debasement and bad times for stocks. Other experts say that deficits are no cause for alarm, because government spending stimulates the economy, and the country can bear more debt. Who is right? Using annual (end of fiscal year, FY) levels of the U.S. public debtinterest expenses on the debtU.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), S&P 500 Index (SP500) returns and inflation rate as available during June 1928 through September 2021 (about 93 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Corporate Debt-to-GDP Ratio as a Stock Market Indicator

A subscriber asked whether risk assets tend to struggle for about two years after low values of the ratio of corporate debt to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). To investigate, we use Non-financial Corporate Debt Securities and Loans as a proxy for corporate debt. Both debt and GDP series are quarterly, seasonally adjusted and have release delays of about one quarter. We then form the corporate debt-to-GDP ratio and relate its behavior to that of the S&P 500 Index. Using quarterly data for the three series from the fourth quarter of 1951 (limited by availability of quarterly data for the debt series) through the second quarter of 2021 for the economic/financial series and the third quarter of 2021 for the S&P 500 Index, we find that: Keep Reading

Do Any Sector ETFs Reliably Lead or Lag the Market?

Do any of the major U.S. stock market sectors systematically lead or lag the overall market, perhaps because of some underlying business/economic cycle? To investigate, we examine the behaviors of the nine sectors defined by the Select Sector Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR) exchange traded funds (ETF):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for these ETFs, along with contemporaneous data for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a benchmark, during December 1998 (sector ETF inception) through August 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Comparing the Sahm Indicator and the Yield Curve

In response to “Combining SMA10 and Sahm Indicator”, a subscriber asked for a comparison of signals generated by the Sahm Recession Indicator (Sahm) and by yield curve inversion. The former signals a recession when the 3-month simple moving average (SMA) of the U.S. unemployment rate is at least 0.5% higher than its low during the last 12 months. The latter signals a recession when the yield on the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) rises above the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note (T-note). To investigate, we calculate average monthly returns and standard deviations of monthly returns for the S&P 500 Index (SP500):

  • When Sahm does not indicate a recession and, separately, when it does.
  • When the yield curve does not indicate a recession and, separately, when it does.
  • When SP500 is below its 10-month SMA (SMA10) and, separately, when it is above (for additional perspective).

Using end-of-month levels of SP500 since March 1959, Sahm levels since inception in December 1959 (history vintage 8/6/2021) and T-bill and T-note yields since December 1959, all through July 2021, we find that:

Keep Reading

Combining SMA10 and Sahm Indicator

A subscriber asked about a stock market timing strategy that combines the market 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) and the Sahm Recession Indicator (Sahm), which signals the start of a recession when the 3-month SMA of the U.S. unemployment rate is at least 0.5% higher than its low during the last 12 months. Specifically, the strategy:

  • Holds the S&P 500 Index (SP500) unless it is below its SMA10 and Sahm first signals a recession.
  • Subsequently holds cash until SP500 crosses above its SMA10.

To investigate, we compare three alternative strategies:

  1. SP500 – buy and hold the index.
  2. SMA10 – hold the index only while it is above its SMA10 and otherwise hold cash.
  3. SMA10+Sahm – combined signals as specified above.

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 end-of-month levels of SP500 since March 1959, Shiller’s monthly SP500 dividends (to estimate SP500 total returns) since January 1960, Sahm since inception in December 1959 (history vintage 8/6/2021) and T-bill yield since December 1959, all through July 2021, we find that:

Keep Reading

Misery Index and Future U.S. Stock Market Returns

Does the Misery Index, the sum of the U.S. total inflation rate and the U.S. unemployment rate, predict U.S. stock market returns? To investigate, we relate monthly Misery Index and monthly change in Misery Index to monthly S&P 500 Index (SP500) returns. Using monthly Misery Index level and monthly SP500 level during January 1948 (limited by the Misery Index) through June 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

U.S. Stock Market Returns Around Scheduled FOMC Meetings

A subscriber requested testing of a strategy that buys SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) at the open on the day before each scheduled Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting and sells at the close. Using daily dividend-adjusted SPY open and close prices and dates of FOMC meetings during January 2016 through June 2021 (43 meetings), we find that: Keep Reading

Unemployment Rate and Stock Market Returns

Financial media and expert commentators often cite the U.S. unemployment rate as an indicator of economic and stock market health, generally interpreting a jump (drop) in the unemployment rate as bad (good) for stocks. Conversely, investors may interpret a falling unemployment rate as a trigger for increases in the Federal Reserve target interest rate (and adverse stock market reactions). Is this variable in fact predictive of U.S. stock market behavior in subsequent months, quarters and years? Using monthly seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and monthly S&P 500 Index levels during January 1948 (limited by unemployment rate data) through June 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

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