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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.

Reliable U.S. Equity Market Oscillations?

Do annual stock market swing returns swing around their average like a pendulum? In the November update of his 2022 paper entitled “Periodic Structure of Equity Market Annual Returns and Their Predictability”, Daniel Pinelis investigates whether annual returns of the S&P 500 Index and the NASDAQ Composite Index exhibit reliable periodicity. Specifically, he models an oscillator indicator that accumulates directional imbalances in annual stock index returns and applies the indicator, in combination with statistical, graphical and machine learning methods, to estimate extent and timing of further market declines from the current levels. Using annual returns for the S&P 500 Index since the mid-1960s and for the NASDAQ Composite Index since the early 1970s, both through late 2022, he finds that:

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Option Gamma and Associated Future Stock Returns

Is option gamma, which indicates how aggressively option market makers must trade underlying stocks to hedge their option positions, a systematic driver of those stock returns? In his October 2022 paper entitled “Option Gamma and Stock Returns”, Amar Soebhag investigates the relationship between option gamma for individual stocks and future returns of those stocks. He defines net gamma exposure of a stock as a hedge-adjusted, gamma-weighted sum of open interest for options written on the stock. He each month sorts stocks into value-weighted tenths (deciles) by net gamma for the previous month and calculates next-month returns on the decile portfolios, with focus on the difference in returns between extreme deciles. He then looks at behavior of net gamma across stocks, interactions of net gamma with other stock return predictors and time variation of aggregate net gamma. Using daily gamma, open interest, implied volatility and trading volume for each option contract on listed U.S. common stocks price over $5 as available during January 1996 through December 2021, as well as contemporaneous returns for underlying stocks and data for other widely accepted stock return predictors, he finds 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

Are Target Retirement Date Funds Attractive?

Do target retirement date funds, offering glidepaths that shift asset allocations away from equities and toward bonds as target dates approach, safely generate attractive returns? To investigate, we consider seven such mutual funds offered by Vanguard, as follows:

We consider as benchmarks SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY), iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond ETF (LQD) and both 80-20 and 60-40 monthly rebalanced SPY-LQD combinations. We look at monthly and annual return statistics, including compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD). Using monthly total returns for SPY, LQD, three target retirement date funds since October 2003 and four target retirement date funds since June 2006 (limited by Vanguard inception dates), all through September 2022, we find that:

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How Are Renewable Energy ETFs Doing?

How do exchange-traded-funds (ETF) focused on supplying renewable energy perform? To investigate, we consider nine of the largest renewable energy ETFs, all currently available, as follows:

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a benchmark, assuming investors look at renewable energy stocks to beat the market and not to beat the energy sector. We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the nine renewable energy ETFs and SPY as available 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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VIX and Future Stock Market Returns

Market commentators sometimes cite a high Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) Volatility Index (VIX), the options-implied volatility of the S&P 500 Index as an indicator of investor sentiment and therefore a contrarian signal for the stock market. Specifically, a relatively high (low) VIX indicates panic (complacency) and therefore pending stock market strength (weakness). Does evidence support such conventional wisdom? To check, we relate the level of VIX to S&P 500 Index returns over the next 5, 10, 21, 63 and 126 trading days. Using daily closes for VIX and the S&P 500 Index during January 1990 (limited by the VIX series) through September 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Effects of Firm ESG Rating Changes on Stock Returns

Is growing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues among investors and asset managers materially affecting stock selection decisions and associated returns? In the September 2022 version of their paper entitled “The Economic Impact of ESG Ratings”, Florian Berg, Florian Heeb and Julian Kölbel measure impacts of ESG rating changes on associated mutual fund holdings and stock returns. They focus on average abnormal holdings changes and average cumulative abnormal returns from: (1) 12 months before rating change up to the change, and (2) from the ratings change through 24 months after the change. Abnormal returns control for firm leverage, size, book-to-market ratio and profitability, and for stock return beta and momentum. Using quarterly fundamentals and monthly stock returns and ESG-dedicated mutual fund holdings for 3,665 firms with a total of 2,545  MSCI ESG rating upgrades and 2,133 downgrades during February 2013 through September 2020, they 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

Are Equity Multifactor ETFs Working?

Are equity multifactor strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider seven ETFs, all currently available:

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the seven equity multifactor ETFs and benchmarks as available through August 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

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