Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for January 2021 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for January 2021 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

Equity Premium

Governments are largely insulated from market forces. Companies are not. Investments in stocks therefore carry substantial risk in comparison with holdings of government bonds, notes or bills. The marketplace presumably rewards risk with extra return. How much of a return premium should investors in equities expect? These blog entries examine the equity risk premium as a return benchmark for equity investors.

Seasonal Timing of Monthly Investment Increments

A subscriber requested evaluation of three retirement investment alternatives, assuming a constant increment invested at the end of each month, as follows:

  1. 50-50: allocate each increment via fixed percentages to stocks and bonds (for comparability, we use 50% to each).
  2. Seasonal 1: during April through September (October through March), allocate 100% of each increment to stocks (bonds).
  3. Seasonal 2: during April through September (October through March), allocate 100% of each increment to bonds (stocks).

The hypothesis is that seasonal variation in asset class allocations could improve overall long-term investment performance. We conduct a short-term test using SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) as a proxy for stocks and iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) as a proxy for bonds. We then conduct a long-term test using Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX) as a proxy for stocks and Vanguard Long-Term Investment-Grade Fund Investor Shares (VWESX) as a proxy for bonds. Based on the setup, we focus on terminal value as the essential performance metric. Using total (dividend-adjusted) returns for SPY and LQD since July 2002 and for VFINX and VWESX since January 1980, all through December 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Party in Power and Stock Returns

Past research relating U.S. stock market returns to the party holding the Presidency mostly concludes that Democratic presidents are better for the stock market than Republican presidents. However, Presidents share power conferred by the electorate with Congress. Does historical data confirm that Democratic control of Congress is also better for stock market returns than Republican control of Congress? Is control of the smaller Senate more decisive than control of the House of Representatives? To check, we relate annual U.S. stock market (S&P 500 Index) returns to various combinations of party control of the Presidency, the Senate and the House of Representatives. Using party in power data and annual levels of the S&P 500 Index for December 1927 through December 2020 (93 years), we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS-SACEMS for Value-Momentum Diversification

Are the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) and the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) mutually diversifying. To check, based on feedback from subscribers about combinations of interest, we look at three equal-weighted (50-50) combinations of the two strategies, rebalanced monthly:

  1. 50-50 Best Value – EW Top 2: SACEVS Best Value paired with SACEMS Equally Weighted (EW) Top 2 (aggressive value and somewhat aggressive momentum).
  2. 50-50 Best Value – EW Top 3: SACEVS Best Value paired with SACEMS EW Top 3 (aggressive value and diversified momentum).
  3. 50-50 Weighted – EW Top 3: SACEVS Weighted paired with SACEMS EW Top 3 (diversified value and diversified momentum).

We consider as a benchmark a simple technical strategy (SPY:SMA10) that holds SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) when the S&P 500 Index is above its 10-month simple moving average and 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (Cash, or T-bills) when below. We also test sensitivity of results to deviating from equal SACEVS-SACEMS weights. Using monthly gross returns for SACEVS, SACEMS, SPY and T-bills during July 2006 through November 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Add REITs to SACEVS?

What happens if we extend the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) with a real estate risk premium, derived from the yield on equity Real Estate Investment Trusts (REIT), represented by the FTSE NAREIT Equity REITs Index? To investigate, we apply the SACEVS methodology to the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus cash:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR Dow Jones REIT (RWR) through September 2004 dovetailed with Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ) thereafter
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

This set of ETFs relates to four risk premiums, as specified below: (1) term; (2) credit (default); (3) real estate; and, (4) equity. We focus on effects of adding the real estate risk premium on gross compound annual growth rates (CAGR), maximum drawdowns (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratios of the Best Value (picking the most undervalued premium) and Weighted (weighting all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation) versions of SACEVS. Using lagged quarterly S&P 500 earnings, monthly S&P 500 Index levels and monthly yields for 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill), the 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury note (T-note), Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds and FTSE NAREIT Equity REITs Index since March 1989 (limited by availability of earnings data), and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above asset class ETFs since July 2002, all through November 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS Applied to Mutual Funds

“Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) finds that investors may be able to exploit relative valuation of the term risk premium, the credit (default) risk premium and the equity risk premium via exchange-traded funds (ETF). However, the backtesting period is limited by available histories for ETFs and for series used to estimate risk premiums. To construct a longer test, we make the following substitutions for potential holdings (selected for length of available samples):

To enable estimation of risk premiums over a longer history, we also substitute:

As with ETFs, we consider two alternatives for exploiting premium undervaluation: Best Value, which picks the most undervalued premium; and, Weighted, which weights all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation. Based on the assets considered, the principal benchmark is a monthly rebalanced portfolio of 60% VFINX and 40% VFIIX. Using monthly risk premium calculation data during March 1934 through November 2020 (limited by availability of T-bill data), and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the three asset class mutual funds during June 1980 through November 2020 (40+ years, limited by VFIIX), we find that:

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Fed Model Improvement?

Is there a better way than the Fed model to measure relative attractiveness of equities and bonds. In his October 2020 paper entitled “Towards a Better Fed Model”, Raymond Micaletti examines seven Fed Model alternatives, each comparing a 10-year forward annualized estimate of equity returns to the yield of 10-year constant maturity U.S. Treasury notes (T-note). The seven estimates of future equity returns are based on autocorrelation-corrected quarterly regressions using 10 years of past quarterly data for one of: (1) Aggregate Investor Allocation to Equities (AIAE); (2) Cyclically-Adjusted Price-to-Earnings Ratio (CAPE); (3) Tobin’s Q (QRATIO); (4) Market Capitalization-to-Nominal GDP (MC/GDP); (5) Market Capitalization-to-Adjusted Gross Value Added (MC/AGVANF); (6) Market Capitalization-to-Household and Non-Profit Total Assets (MC/HHNPTA); and, (7) Household and Non-Profit Equity Allocation-to-Nominal GDP (HHNPEQ/GDP). He calculates AIAE as total market value of equities divided by the sum of total market value of equities and total par value of bonds, approximated by adding the liabilities of five categories of borrowers. He then tests for each alternative a tactical asset allocation (TAA) strategy that each month weights equities and bonds based on a modified z-score of the forecasted 10-year equity risk premium (equity return minus T-note yield) computed by subtracting the median and dividing by the standard deviation of actual monthly premiums over the past 10 years. If modified z-score is greater than 1 (less than -1), the strategy is 100% in equities (0% in equities). In between those thresholds, weights are based on linear interpolation. Using quarterly data from the Archival Federal Reserve Economic Database (ALFRED) and Robert Shiller’s data library and daily U.S. equity market returns and U.S. Treasury bond/note roll-adjusted futures returns as available from the end of the fourth quarter of 1951 through the end of the third quarter of 2020, he finds that: Keep Reading

QQQ:IWM for Risk-on and GLD:TLT for Risk-off?

A subscriber asked about a strategy that switches between an equal-weighted portfolio of Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) and iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) when the S&P 500 Index is above its 200-day simple moving average (SMA200) and an equal-weighted portfolio of SPDR Gold Shares (GLD) and iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT) when below. Also, more generally, is an equal-weighted portfolio of GLD and TLT (GLD:TLT) superior to TLT only for risk-off conditions? To investigate, we (1) backtest the switching strategy and (2) compare performances of GLD:TLT versus TLT when the S&P 500 Index is below its SMA200. We consider both gross and net performance, with the latter accounting for 0.1% portfolio switching frictions 0.001% daily portfolio rebalancing frictions (rebalancing one hundredth of portfolio value). As benchmarks, we consider buying and holding SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) and a strategy that holds SPY (TLT) when the S&P 500 Index is above (below) its SMA200. Using daily S&P 500 Index levels starting February 5, 2004 and daily dividend-adjusted levels of QQQ, IWM, GLD, TLT and SPY starting November 18, 2004 (limited by inception of GLD), all through November 25, 2020, we find that:

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Reversions from Stock Market Valuation Extremes Drive the Value Premium?

Do extreme equity market valuations represent opportunities in value stocks? In their October 2020 paper entitled “Extrapolators at the Gate: Market-wide Misvaluation and the Value Premium”, Stefano Cassella, Zhaojing Chen, Huseyin Gulen and Ralitsa Petkova test the hypothesis that extrapolating (momentum) investors bid up growth stocks in good times and bid down value stocks in bad times, such that the value premium concentrates during reversion from these conditions. Their principal measure of market valuation is average book value-to-market capitalization ratio (B/M) of all firms, excluding financial stocks, utility stocks and stocks priced ice less than $1. When monthly B/M is in the top (bottom) 10% of monthly values for the past 10 years, they deem the market overvalued (undervalued). For robustness, they consider other percentage cutoffs and an alternative metric that quantifies the distance between the current-month distribution of firm B/Ms and the distributions of over the past 10 years based on the Mann-Whitney U test. They further tie findings to investor expectations based on a long times series constructed from Gallup, American Association of Individual Investors and Investor Intelligence surveys of investors. Using monthly returns and accounting data for U.S. common stocks and the specified survey data during January 1962 through December 2018, they find that:

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Are Currency Carry Trade ETFs Working?

Is the currency carry trade, as implemented by exchange-traded funds/notes (ETF/ETN), attractive? To investigate, we consider two currency carry trade ETF/ETNs, one live (with low trading volume) and one dead:

  • PowerShares DB G10 Currency Harvest Fund (DBV) – tracks changes in the Deutsche Bank G10 Currency Future Harvest Index. This index consists of futures contracts on certain G10 currencies with up to 2:1 leverage to exploit the tendency that currencies with relatively high interest rates tend to appreciate relative to currencies with relatively low interest rates, reconstituted annually in November.
  • iPath Optimized Currency Carry (ICITF) – provides exposure to the Barclays Optimized Currency Carry Index, which reflects the total return of a strategy that holds high-yielding G10 currencies financed by borrowing low-yielding G10 currencies. This fund stopped trading July 2018, but an indicative value is still available.

We focus on monthly return statistics, plus compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). For reference (not benchmarking), we compare results to those for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT). Using monthly total returns for the two currency carry trade products, SPY and TLT as available through October 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

U.S. Economy and Equity Market Linkage Weakening?

How connected are principal measures of U.S. economic activity and U.S. stock market performance? In their October 2020 paper entitled “Has the Stock Market Become Less Representative of the Economy?”, Frederik Schlingemann and René Stulz model and measure relationships between market capitalizations of U.S. publicly listed firms and their contributions to U.S. employment and Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They estimate employment contribution directly based on firm reports, with modeled adjustments. They measure contribution to GDP based on firm value-add, approximated as operating income before depreciation plus labor costs (with labor costs often modeled). They also try other ways of measuring value-add. Using annual non-farm employment and GDP data for the U.S., annual employment and value-add data for U.S. publicly listed firms and annual stock prices for those firms during 1973 (limited by firm employment data) through 2019, they find that:

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