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Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

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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.

Real Interest Rates and Asset Returns

How sensitive are returns of stocks, bonds and gold to levels real interest rates (nominal rates minus inflation)? To investigate, we consider three nominal interest rates and two measures of inflation, as follows:

These choices offer six alternative real interest rates. We use end-of-month interest rates and inflation measures lagged by one month to account for release delay. We use the S&P 500 Index (SP500) capital gain only, the 10-year yield (with bond prices moving inversely) and spot gold price, all measured end-of-month, to represent returns for stocks, bonds and gold. We then relate monthly changes in real interest rates to asset class monthly returns in two ways: (1) calculate correlations of monthly real interest rates to asset class returns for each of the next 12 months to get a sense of how real rates lead asset returns; and, (2) calculate average asset class monthly returns by ranked tenths (deciles) of prior-month real interest rates to discover any non-linear relationships. Using monthly PCEPI and Core PCEPI since January 1961, interest rates since January 1962, SP500 level since December 1961 and spot gold price since December 1974 (when controls are removed), all through May 2021, we find that:

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Gold Price Drivers?

What drives the price of gold: inflation, interest rates, stock market behavior, public sentiment? To investigate, we relate monthly and annual spot gold return to changes in:

We start testing in 1975 because: “On March 17, 1968, …the price of gold on the private market was allowed to fluctuate…[, and] in 1975…the price of gold was left to find its free-market level.” We lag CPI measurements by one month to ensure they are known to the market when calculating gold return. Using monthly data from December 1974 (March 1978 for consumer sentiment) through May 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

ISM Services PMI and Stock Market Returns

Each month, the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) each month generates the Services Purchasing Managers Index (PMI), aggregating monthly inputs from purchasing and supply executives in services firms across the U.S. regarding business activity, new orders, employment and supplier deliveries. ISM releases Services PMI for a month on the third business day of the following month. Does the monthly level of Services PMI or the monthly change in Services PMI predict U.S. stock market returns? Using monthly seasonally adjusted Services PMI data during January 2008 through January 2016 from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and from press releases thereafter through March 2021, and contemporaneous monthly S&P 500 Index closes, we find that: Keep Reading

ISM Manufacturing PMI and Stock Market Returns

According to the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) each month generates the Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), aggregating monthly inputs from purchasing and supply executives in manufacturing firms across the U.S. regarding new orders, production, employment, deliveries and inventories. ISM releases Manufacturing PMI for a month at the beginning of the following month. Does Manufacturing PMI predict stock market returns? Using monthly seasonally adjusted Manufacturing PMI data during January 1948 through January 2016 from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis (discontinued and removed) and from press releases thereafter through March 2021, and contemporaneous monthly S&P 500 Index closes, we find that:

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GDP Growth and Stock Market Returns

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) each quarter estimates economic growth via changes in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE), Private Domestic Investment (PDI) and government spending components. BEA releases advance, preliminary and final data about one, two and three months after quarter ends, respectively. Do these estimates of economic growth usefully predict stock market returns? To investigate, we relate economic growth metrics to S&P 500 Index returns. Using quarterly and annual seasonally adjusted nominal final GDP data from BEA National Income and Product Accounts Table 1.1.5 as available during January 1929 through April 2021 and contemporaneous levels of the S&P 500 Index, we find that:

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KCFSI as a Stock Market Return Predictor

A subscriber suggested the Kansas City Financial Stress Index (KCFSI) as a potential U.S. stock market return predictor. This index “is a monthly measure of stress in the U.S. financial system based on 11 financial market variables. A positive value indicates that financial stress is above the long-run average, while a negative value signifies that financial stress is below the long-run average. Another useful way to assess the current level of financial stress is to compare the index to its value during past, widely recognized episodes of financial stress.” The paper “Financial Stress: What Is It, How Can It Be Measured, and Why Does It Matter?” describes the 11 financial inputs for KCFSI and its methodology, which involves monthly demeaning of inputs, monthly normalization of the overall indicator to have historical standard deviation one and principal component analysis. This process changes past values in the series, perhaps even changing their signs. Is KCFSI useful for U.S. stock market investors? To investigate, we relate monthly S&P 500 Index returns to monthly values of, and changes in, KCFSI. We match return calculation intervals to KCFSI release dates. Using monthly data for KCFSI and the S&P 500 Index during February 1990 (limited by KCFSI) through March 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Consumer Credit and Stock Returns

Does expansion (contraction) of consumer credit indicate growing (shrinking) corporate sales, earnings and ultimately stock prices? The Federal Reserve collects and publishes U.S. consumer credit data on a monthly basis with a delay of about five weeks. Using monthly seasonally adjusted total U.S. consumer credit for January 1943 through February 2021 and monthly S&P 500 Index closes for January 1943 through March 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Facing Down Inflation

What asset classes offer the best performance during episodes of high and rising inflation? In their March 2021 paper entitled “The Best Strategies for Inflationary Times”, Henry Neville, Teun Draaisma, Ben Funnell, Campbell Harvey and Otto Van Hemert analyze performances of passive and active strategies across various asset classes during inflationary episodes in the U.S., U.K., and Japan over the past 95 years. They define inflationary regimes as follows:

  • An episode begins when annual change in headline consumer price index (CPI) rises to 5% or higher.
  • An episode ends when annual change falls below 50% of its trailing 24-month peak.
  • Alternatively, an episode begins when annual change in CPI is above 2% but has fallen to less than 50% of its trailing 24-month peak, and then rises to at least 5%.

They exclude episodes shorter than six months. They also analyze alternative asset classes such as fine art and discuss crypto-assets as a potential inflation hedge. Using monthly CPI and various asset class returns in the U.S., UK and Japan during 1926 through 2020, they find that:

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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 February 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Real Bond Returns and Inflation

A subscriber asked (years ago): “Everyone says I should not invest in bonds today because the interest rate is so low (and inflation is daunting). But real bond returns over the last 30 years are great, even while interest rates are low. Could you analyze why bonds do well after, but not before, 1981?” To investigate, we consider the U.S. long-run interest rate and the U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) series from Robert Shiller. The long-run interest rate is the yield on U.S. government bonds, specifically the constant maturity 10-year U.S. Treasury note after 1953. We use the term “T-note” loosely to name the entire series. We apply the formula used by Aswath Damodaran to the yield series to estimate nominal T-note total returns. We use 12-month change in CPI. We subtract inflation from T-note nominal total return to get T-note real total return. Using annual Shiller interest rate and CPI data for 1871 through 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

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