Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for February 2023 (Final)

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for February 2023 (Final)
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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.

Recent Interactions of Asset Classes with Inflation (CPI)

How do returns of different asset classes recently interact with inflation as measured by monthly change in the not seasonally adjusted, all-items consumer price index (CPI) from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics? To investigate, we look at lead-lag relationships between change in CPI and returns for each of the following 10 exchange-traded fund (ETF) asset class proxies:

  • Equities:
    • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
    • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
    • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
    • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • Bonds:
    • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
    • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
    • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Real assets:
    • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
    • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
    • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

Using monthly total CPI values and monthly dividend-adjusted prices for the 10 specified ETFs during December 2007 (limited by EMB) through December 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Labor Force Participation Rate and Stock Market Returns

Does the labor force participation rate, measured monthly by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics along with employment and unemployment rate, predict U.S. stock market returns? An increasing (decreasing) participation rate may may indicate strong (weak) employment demand and therefore a strong (weak) economy. To investigate, we relate participation rate to performance of the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the stock market. Using monthly participation rate and index level during January 1948 (limited by the former) through December 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Substitute VIG for SPY in SACEVS and SACEMS?

A subscriber asked whether substituting the less volatile Vanguard Dividend Appreciation Index Fund (VIG) for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) in the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) and the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) would improve outcomes. To investigate, we substitute monthly VIG dividend-adjusted returns for SPY dividend-adjusted returns in the two model strategies. Because VIG is not available for the entire sample periods used in the tracked models, we splice VIG returns into the SPY position starting with inception of the former in May 2006. We then compare the spliced performance with the original baseline performance, including: gross compound annual growth rates (CAGR), gross annual returns, average gross annual returns, standard deviations of gross annual returns, gross annual Sharpe ratios and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). In Sharpe ratio calculations, we employ the average monthly yield on 3-month U.S. Treasury bills during a year as the risk-free rate for that year. Using the specified methodology and data to generate SACEVS monthly returns starting August 2002 and SACEMS monthly returns starting July 2006, all through December 2021, we find that:

Keep Reading

Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy Update/Extension

“Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy” investigates performances of simple momentum trading strategies for the following nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) executed with Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

Here, we update the principal strategy and extend it by adding equally weighted combinations of the top two and top three sector ETFs, along with corresponding robustness tests and benchmarks. We present findings in formats similar to those used for the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy and the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the sector ETFs and SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield and S&P 500 Index level during December 1998 through December 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

TLT-SPY Return Delta as Stock Market Crash Indicator

A subscriber hypothesized that a very large delta between daily iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) and SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) returns presages a stock market collapse, and asked for verification. To investigate, we consider two tests:

  1. Calculate correlations between daily TLT-SPY return delta and daily SPY returns over the next month (21 trading days). A stock market collapse during this interval should exhibit very negative correlations.
  2. Compute average next-day SPY returns by ranked tenth (decile) of daily TLT-SPY return deltas. Average SPY returns should be relatively very low for high deciles.

Using daily dividend-adjusted prices for TLT and SPY during late July 2002 (limited by TLT) through mid-December 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Defensive-in-May Sector Rotation

A subscriber asked about a strategy that holds a portfolio of cyclical sectors and small capitalization stocks during November through April and a portfolio of defensive sectors during May through October, as follows:

We use NAESX for small stocks to obtain a history as long as those for the equity sectors. We weight components of the cyclical and defensive portfolios equally. We use buy-and-hold NAESX and an equal-weighted, semiannually rebalanced portfolio of all seven funds (Sector EW) as benchmarks. We focus on semiannual return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using semiannual dividend-adjusted prices for the selected funds during April 1999 through October 2021 (defining the first and last available semiannual intervals), we find that: Keep Reading

ESG Realities

How meaningful is the term Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) as a descriptor of firm valuation and investment performance? In his November 2021 paper entitled “ESG: Hyperboles and Reality”, George Serafeim assesses beliefs about ESG, including those involving firm valuation and ESG firm/fund investment performance. Drawing on more than a decade of research, he concludes that: Keep Reading


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 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

How Are Robotics-AI ETFs Doing?

How do exchange-traded-funds (ETF) focused on development of robotics-artificial intelligence (AI), an arguably hot area of technology, perform? To investigate, we consider five of the largest such ETFs, all currently available, as follows:

We use Invesco QQQ Trust (QQQ) as a benchmark, assuming investors look at robotics-AI stocks as a way to beat other technology stocks. We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the five robotics-AI ETFs and QQQ as available through October 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Realistic Returns for Investing in the Stock Market

Is the conventional way of estimating the equity risk premium based on total shareholder return (TSR, assuming reinvestment of all dividends into stocks) reasonable? In their November 2021 paper entitled “Stock Investors’ Returns are Exaggerated”, Jesse Fried, Paul Ma and Charles Wang examine the realism of TSR as a measure of aggregate U.S. equity investor performance and therefore as the basis for U.S. equity premium estimation. They define an alternative all-shareholder return (ASR) that explicitly incorporates feasible reinvestment possibilities for cash distributions. Specifically, ASR:

  • Rejects the infeasible total dividend reinvestment assumption and alternatively assumes shareholders reallocate dividends into U.S. Treasuries of different maturities, corporate bonds or housing.
  • Takes into account all sources of cash flows from firms to investors, including repurchases and equity issuances (net distributions).

Using monthly estimated returns and cash distributions for the U.S. stock market and returns for the specified alternatives for cash distribution during January 1926 through December 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

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