Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for May 2022 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for May 2022 (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.

Job Openings and Stock Market Returns

Do U.S. non-farm job openings, 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 return? High (low) job openings rate may indicate a strong (weak) economy and/or may signal high (low) wage inflation. To investigate, we relate job openings to performance of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a proxy for the stock market. Using monthly job openings (which has a release delay of about six weeks) during December 2000 through September 2021 and monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY during December 2000 through October 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS with Quarterly Allocation Updates

Do quarterly allocation updates for the Best Value and Weighted versions of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) work as well as monthly updates? These strategies allocate funds to the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) according to valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums, or to cash if no premiums are undervalued:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

Changing from monthly to quarterly allocation updates does not sacrifice information about lagged quarterly S&P 500 Index earnings, but it does sacrifice currency of term and credit premiums. To assess alternatives, we compare cumulative performances and the following key metrics for quarterly and monthly allocation updates: gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR), gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD), annual gross returns and volatilities and annual gross Sharpe ratios. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closes for the above ETFs during September 2002 (earliest alignment of months and quarters) through September 2021, 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

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 2021, 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 September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Testing a Countercyclical Asset Allocation Strategy

“Countercyclical Asset Allocation Strategy” summarizes research on a simple countercyclical asset allocation strategy that systematically raises (lowers) the allocation to an asset class when its current aggregate allocation is relatively low (high). The underlying research is not specific on calculating portfolio allocations and returns. To corroborate findings, we use annual mutual fund and exchange-traded fund (ETF) allocations to stocks and bonds worldwide from the 2021 Investment Company Fact Book, Data Tables 3 and 11 to determine annual countercyclical allocations for stocks and bonds (ignoring allocations to money market funds). Specifically:

  • If actual aggregate mutual fund/ETF allocation to stocks in a given year is above (below) 60%, we set next-year portfolio allocation below (above) 60% by the same percentage.
  • If actual aggregate mutual fund/ETF allocation to bonds in a given year is above (below) 40%, we set next-year portfolio allocation below (above) 40% by the same percentage.

We then apply next-year allocations to stock (Fidelity Fund, FFIDX) and bond (Fidelity Investment Grade Bond Fund, FBNDX) mutual funds that have long histories. Based on Fact Book annual publication dates, we rebalance at the end of April each year. Using the specified actual fund allocations for 1984 through 2020 and FFIDX and FBNDX May through April total returns and end-of-April 1-year U.S. Treasury note (T-note) yields for 1985 through 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Market Performance Perspectives

How different are stock market performance metrics for:

  • Capital gains only, capital gains plus dividends accrued as cash (spent or saved), and capital gains plus dividends reinvested in the stock market?
  • Nominal versus real returns?
  • Simple return-to-risk calculations versus Sharpe ratio?

Using quarterly S&P 500 Index levels and dividends, quarterly U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) data (all items) and monthly 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate/return on cash during the first quarter of 1988 through the second quarter of 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Understanding the Variation in Equity Factor Returns

What is the best way to understand and anticipate variations in equity factor returns? Past research emphasizes factor return connections to business cycle variables or measures of investor sentiment (with little success). In his September 2021 paper entitled “The Quant Cycle”, David Blitz analyzes factor returns themselves to understand their variations, arguing that behavioral rather than economic forces drive them. He determines the quant cycle (bull and bear trends in factor returns) by qualitatively identifying peaks and troughs. He focuses on U.S. versions of four conventionally defined long-short factors frequently targeted by investors (value, quality, momentum and low-risk), emphasizing the most volatile (value and momentum). He also considers some alternative factors. Using monthly data for factors from the online data libraries of Kenneth French, Robeco and AQR spanning July 1963 through December 2020 (and for a reduced set of factors spanning January 1929 through June 1963), he finds that:

Keep Reading

U.S. Dollar Seasonal Strength/Weakness and Stock Market Returns

A subscriber asked whether currency exchange rates exhibit reliable seasonality that may be used to time equities (with a stronger currency implying lower asset prices). To investigate, we look for reliable calendar month effects for the U.S. dollar (USD)-euro exchange rate and for Invesco DB US Dollar Index Bullish Fund (UUP). We further look at how monthly returns for these variables relate to those for SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) as a proxy for the U.S. stock market. Using monthly data for the USD-euro exchange rate since January 1999 and for UUP since March 2007 and corresponding data for SPY, all through August 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Extended Sample Tests of Established Equity Premium Predictors

Do equity premium predictors published in the past still work after extending their respective discovery samples through 2020? In their September 2021 paper entitled “A Comprehensive Look at the Empirical Performance of Equity Premium Prediction II”, Amit Goyal, Ivo Welch and Athanasse Zafirov reexamine the power of 29 variables found to predict the equity premium (stock market return minus U.S. Treasury bill yield) in 26 prominent published papers, with data samples ending between 2000 and 2017, by extending these samples through 2020. They test not only their predictive powers, but also their performances when applied to four simple market timing strategies with Treasury bills as the alternative asset:

  1. Untilted, Unscaled – go long the equity premium when the predictor is above its historical median and short otherwise.
  2. Tilted, Unscaled – go long the equity premium unless the predictor is below its historical 25th percentile.
  3. Untilted, Z-scaled – first calculate a Z-score by subtracting the historical median from the current value and dividing by the historical standard deviation, and then scale the equity premium allocation by the Z-score.
  4. Tilted, Z-scaled – first calculate a Z-score by subtracting the historical 25th percentile value from the current value and dividing by the historical standard deviation, and then scale the equity premium allocation by the Z-score.

The benchmark for these strategies is buying and holding the equity premium. Extending the original discovery sample for each of the 29 predictors through December 2020 (typically about 10 years additional data), they find that: Keep Reading

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