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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.

Smart Money Indicator Verification Update

“Verification Tests of the Smart Money Indicator” performs tests of ideas and setup features described in “Smart Money Indicator for Stocks vs. Bonds”. The Smart Money Indicator (SMI) is a complicated variable that exploits differences in futures and options positions in the S&P 500 Index, U.S. Treasury bonds and 10-year U.S. Treasury notes between institutional investors (smart money) and retail investors (dumb money) as published in Commodity Futures Trading Commission Commitments of Traders (COT) reports. Since findings for some variations in that test are attractive, we add two further robustness tests:

Using COT report data, dividend-adjusted SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a proxy for a stock market total return index, 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as return on cash (Cash) and dividend-adjusted iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) as a proxy for government bonds during 6/16/06 through 4/3/20, we find that:

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Best Equity Risk Premium

What are the different ways of estimating the equity risk premium, and which one is best? In his March 2020 paper entitled “Equity Risk Premiums (ERP): Determinants, Estimation and Implications – The 2020 Edition”, Aswath Damodaran updates a comprehensive overview of equity risk premium estimation and application. He examines why different approaches to estimating the premium disagree and how to choose among them. Using data from multiple countries (but focusing on the U.S.) over long periods through the end of 2019, he concludes that: Keep Reading

COVID-19 and U.S. Stock Returns

What does the U.S. stock market at industry/firm levels say about investor expectations during and after the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? In the April 2020 update of their paper entitled “Feverish Stock Price Reactions to COVID-19”, Stefano Ramelli and Alexander Wagner examine and interpret industry/firm-level reactions to COVID-19 across three pandemic phases:

  1. Incubation: January 2-17,
  2. Outbreak: January 20-February 21,
  3. Fever: February 24-March 20.

They estimate each stock’s abnormal return during these phases as its 1-factor (market) alpha minus its beta times the market excess return. They estimate alpha and beta via regression of daily excess stock returns on daily excess value-weighted market returns during 2019. They use the yield on 1-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill) as the risk-free rate for calculating excess return. Using daily dividend-adjusted stock prices for Russell 3000 stocks (excluding financial stocks for leverage-related analyses), market returns and T-bill yields during December 31, 2018 through March 20, 2020, they 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 February 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Employment and Stock Market Returns

U.S. job gains or losses receive prominent coverage in the monthly financial news cycle, with media and expert commentators generally interpreting employment changes as an indicator of future economic and stock market health. One line of reasoning is that jobs generate personal income, which spurs personal consumption, which boosts corporate earnings and lifts the stock market. Are employment changes in fact predictive of U.S. stock market behavior in subsequent months, quarters and years? Using monthly seasonally adjusted non-farm employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and monthly S&P 500 Index levels during January 1939 (limited by employment data) through February 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Impact of COVID-19 on Markets and Economies

Economic data arrive too slowly to help investors navigate crises such as the 2019 coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Are there data that support quick reactions? In their March 2020 paper entitled “Coronavirus: Impact on Stock Prices and Growth Expectations”, Niels Gormsen and Ralph Koijen employ equity index dividend futures by maturity to understand the evolution of investor reactions to COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent policy actions. They argue that a stock market decline means that expected future dividends fall and/or the discount rate for future dividends rises, differently by maturity. These changes in expectations affect stock market valuation. Using daily dividend futures closing mid-quotes in the U.S. and settlement prices in the EU during January 2006 through March 25, 2020, they find that:

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Ex-U.S. Equity Factor Model Horse Race

Which equity factor model is best among non-U.S. global stock markets? In other words, what market/accounting variables are most important to investors screening non-U.S. stocks? In his February 2020 paper entitled “A Comparison of Global Factor Models”, Matthias Hanauer compares eight widely used equity factor models on a common dataset spanning stocks from 47 non-U.S. developed and emerging markets based on gross Sharpe ratio. The models are:

  1. The Capital Asset Pricing Model (CAPM) – market.
  2. FF3 (3-factor) – market, size, book-to-market.
  3. FF5 (5-factor) – adds profitability based on operating profits-to-book equity and investment to FF3.
  4. FF6 (6-factor) – adds momentum to FF5.
  5. FF6CP (6-factor) – substitutes cash-based operating profits-to-assets for the profitability factor used in FF6.
  6. HXZ4, or q-factor (4-factor) – market, size, profitability based on return-on-equity (ROE), investment.
  7. SY4, or Mispricing (4-factor) – market, size, management, performance.
  8. FF6CP,m (6-factor) – substitutes a monthly value factor for the annual value factor in FF6CP.

He employs annual accounting data because quarterly data are unavailable in many countries at the beginning of my sample period. Using factor input and return data for 56,171 stocks across developed and emerging markets during 1990 through 2018, he finds that: Keep Reading

Middle-of-the-Night Stock Market Gains

Has 24-hour trading of equity index futures created a reliable pattern in hour-by-hour returns? In their February 2020 preliminary paper entitled “The Overnight Drift”, Nina Boyarchenko, Lars Larsen and Paul Whelan study round-the-clock U.S. stock market performance decomposing S&P 500 Index futures returns by hour, with focus on dealer inventory management. Using 24-hour high-frequency trades and quotes for S&P 500 futures contracts during January 1998 through December 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Concentration of Wealth Creation for U.S. Stocks

Does success in the U.S. equity market depend on an ever- shrinking percentage of outperforming stocks? In his February 2020 paper entitled “Wealth Creation in the U.S. Public Stock Markets 1926 to 2019”, Hendrik Bessembinder updates his analysis of wealth creation in excess of 1-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) across U.S. stocks since 1926 by adding 2017-2019. Wealth creation differs from market capitalization by accounting for all cash flows to and from shareholders via new share issuances, share repurchases and dividends not reinvested in stocks. Using price, share issuance/repurchase and dividend data for 26,168 U.S. stocks and the T-bill yield during 1926 through 2019, he finds that:

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Evolving Equity Index Earnings-returns Relationship

Why does the coincident relationship between U.S. aggregate corporate earnings growth and stock market return change from negative in older research to positive in recent research? In their January 2020 paper entitled “Assessing the Structural Change in the Aggregate Earnings-Returns Relation”, Asher Curtis, Chang‐Jin Kim and Hyung Il Oh examine when the change in the aggregate earnings growth-market returns relationship occurs. They then examine factors explaining the change based on asset pricing theory (expected cash flow and expected discount rate). They calculate aggregate earnings growth as the value-weighted average of year-over-year change in firm quarterly earnings scaled by beginning-of-quarter stock price. They consider only U.S. firms with accounting years ending in March, June, September or December, and they exclude firms with stock prices less than $1 and firms in the top and bottom 0.5% of quarterly earnings growth. They calculate corresponding quarterly stock market returns from one month prior to two months after fiscal quarter ends to capture earnings announcement effects. Using quarterly earnings and returns data as specified for a broad sample of U.S. public firms from the first quarter of 1970 through the fourth quarter of 2016, they find that:

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