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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.

Asset Class Value Spreads

Do value strategy returns vary exploitably over time and across asset classes? In their October 2017 paper entitled “Value Timing: Risk and Return Across Asset Classes”, Fahiz Baba Yara, Martijn Boons and Andrea Tamoni examine the power of value spreads to predict returns for individual U.S. equities, global stock indexes, global government bonds, commodities and currencies. They measure value spreads as follows:

  • For individual stocks, they each month sort stocks into tenths (deciles) on book-to-market ratio and form a portfolio that is long (short) the value-weighted decile with the highest (lowest) ratios.
  • For global developed market equity indexes, they each month form a portfolio that is long (short) the equally weighted indexes with book-to-price ratio above (below) the median.
  • For each other asset class, they each month form a portfolio that is long (short) the equally weighted assets with 5-year past returns below (above) the median.

To quantify benefits of timing value spreads, they test monthly time series (in only when undervalued) and rotation (weighted by valuation) strategies across asset classes. To measure sources of value spread variation, they decompose value spreads into asset class-specific and common components. Using monthly data for liquid U.S. stocks during January 1972 through December 2014, spot prices for 28 commodities during January 1972 through December 2014, spot and forward exchange rates for 10 currencies during February 1976 through December 2014, modeled and 1-month futures prices for ten 10-year government bonds during January 1991 through May 2009, and levels and book-to-price ratios for 13 developed equity market indexes during January 1994 through December 2014, they find that:

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Just Bet Against Everything?

Is there an effective Betting Against Alpha (BAA) strategy analogous to the widely used Betting Against Beta (BAB) strategy? In his October 2017 paper entitled “Betting Against Alpha”, Alex Horenstein investigates relationships between stock 1-factor (market), 4-factor (market, size, book-to-market, momentum) alpha and 5-factor (profitability and investment instead of momentum) alphas and future stock returns. He specifies BAA as a portfolio that is long (short) the capitalization-weighted stocks with realized alphas lower (higher) than the median alpha, rebalanced annually. He further specifies Betting Against Alpha and Beta (BAAB) that: (1) first divides stocks into a group with market betas below the median beta and a group with betas above the median; and, (2) then forms a capitalization-weighted portfolio that is long low-beta stocks with alphas below the median alpha within the low-beta group, and short high-beta stocks with alphas above the median alpha within the high-beta group. Additionally, he scales the long and short sides of both portfolios by the inverse of weighted betas, such that average portfolio market betas are near one. In other words, he applies leverage to side of the portfolio with high (low) aggregate beta of less (more) than one. For robustness, he also tests 1-month, 6-month, 24-month and 48-month portfolio reformation intervals. Using monthly data for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during January 1968 (with the first five years used for initial alpha and beta values) through December 2015 and contemporaneous factor model alphas, he finds that: Keep Reading

Do Widely Used Market Charts Obscure Reality?

Do widely used charts of equity and bond market performance inculcate harmfully false beliefs among investors? In his September 2017 paper entitled “Stock Market Charts You Never Saw”, Edward McQuarrie dissects some of these charts and outlines cautions to investors in interpreting them. Using very long-term data for U.S. stock and bond markets spanning hundreds of years, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Survey of Research on Investor Sentiment Metrics

How effective is investor sentiment in predicting stock market returns? In his October 2017 paper entitled “Measuring Investor Sentiment”, Guofu Zhou reviews various measures of equity-oriented investor sentiment based on U.S. market, survey and media data. He highlights the Baker-Wurgler Index (the most widely used), which is based on the first principal component of six sentiment inputs: (1) detrended NYSE trading volume; (2) closed-end fund discount relative to net asset value; (3) number of initial public offerings (IPO); (4) average first-day return on IPOs; (5) ratio of equity issues to total market equity/debt; and, (6) dividend premium (difference between average market-to-book ratios of dividend payers and non-dividend payers). Based on the body of research and using monthly inputs for the Baker-Wurgler Index during July 1965 through December 2016, three sets of investor sentiment survey data since inceptions (between Dec 1969 and July 1987) through December 2016 and two sets of textual analysis data spanning Jan 2003 through December 2014 and Jul 2004 through Dec 2011, he finds that: Keep Reading

Average Call-Put Implied Volatility Spread and Future Stock Market Return

Does relative demand for call and put options on individual stocks, as measured by average difference in implied volatilities of at-the-money calls and puts (aggregate implied volatility spread), predict stock market returns? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Aggregate Implied Volatility Spread and Stock Market Returns”, Bing Han and Gang Li test aggregate implied volatility spread as a U.S. stock market return predictor. They focus on monthly measurements, but test the daily series in robustness test. They calculate monthly implied volatility spread for each stock with at least 12 daily at-the-money call and put option prices during the month as an average over the last five trading days. They then eliminate outliers by excluding the top and bottom 0.1% of all stock implied volatility spreads before averaging across stocks to calculate aggregate implied volatility spread. They compare the predictive power of aggregate implied volatility spread to those of 22 other predictors from prior research. Using daily at-the-money call and put implied volatilities for U.S. stocks, data for other U.S. stock market predictors and U.S. stock market returns during January 1996 through December 2015, they find that:

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How Best to Diversify Smart Betas

Is it better to build equity multifactor portfolios by holding distinct single-factor sub-portfolios, or by picking only stocks that satisfy multiple factor criteria? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Smart Beta Multi-Factor Construction Methodology: Mixing vs. Integrating”, Tzee-man Chow, Feifei Li and Yoseop Shim compare long-only multifactor portfolios constructed in two ways:

  1. Integrated – each quarter, pick the 20% of stocks with the highest average standardized factor scores and weight by market capitalization.
  2. Mixed – each quarter, hold an equal-weighted combination of single-factor portfolios, each comprised of the capitalization-weighted 20% of stocks with the highest expected returns for that factor. 

They consider five factors: value (book-to-market ratio), momentum (return from 12 months ago to one month ago), operating profitability, investment (asset growth) and low-beta. They reform factor portfolios annually for all except momentum and low-beta, which they reform quarterly. Using firm data required for factor calculations and associated stock returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during June 1968 through December 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Factor Overoptimism?

How efficiently do mutual funds capture factor premiums? In their April 2017 paper entitled “The Incredible Shrinking Factor Return”, Robert Arnott, Vitali Kalesnik and Lillian Wu investigate whether factor tilts employed by mutual fund managers deliver the alpha found in empirical research. They focus on four factors most widely used by mutual fund managers: market, size, value and momentum. They note that ideal long-short portfolios used to compute factor returns ignore costs associated with real-world implementation: trading costs and commissions, missed trades, illiquidity, management fees, borrowing costs for the short side and inability to short some stocks. Portfolio returns also ignore bias associated with data snooping in factor discovery and market adaptation to published research. They focus on U.S. long-only equity mutual funds, but also consider similar international funds. They apply a two-stage regression first to identify fund factor exposures and then to measure performance shortfalls per unit of factor exposure. Using data for 5,323 U.S. and 2,364 international live and dead long-only equity mutual funds during January 1990 through December 2016, they find that:

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Factor/Smart Beta Portfolio Implementation Details

How should factor-based (style) investors proceed after picking a factor to exploit? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Craftsmanship Alpha: An Application to Style Investing”, Ronen Israel, Sarah Jiang and Adrienne Ross survey style portfolio implementation options. They start with a brief discussion of style portfolios types and then focus on portfolio design and implementation. They note trade-offs associated with many options. Based on past research and examples, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Factor Tilts of Broad Stock Indexes

Do broad (capitalization-weighted) stock market indexes exhibit factor tilts that may indicate concentrations in corresponding risks? In their August 2017 paper entitled “What’s in Your Benchmark? A Factor Analysis of Major Market Indexes”, Ananth Madhavan, Aleksander Sobczyk and Andrew Ang examine past and present long-only factor exposures of several popular market capitalization indexes. Their analysis involves (1) estimating the factor characteristics of each stock in a broad index; (2) aggregating the characteristics across all stocks in the index; and (3) matching aggregated characteristics to a mimicking portfolio of five indexes representing value, size, quality, momentum and low volatility styles, adjusted for estimated expense ratios. For broad U.S. stock indexes, the five long-only style indexes are:

  • Value – MSCI USA Enhanced Value Index.
  • Size –  MSCI USA Risk Weighted Index.
  • Quality – MSCI USA Sector Neutral Quality Index.
  • Momentum –  MSCI USA Momentum Index.
  • Low Volatility – MSCI USA Minimum Volatility Index.

For broad international indexes, they use corresponding long-only MSCI World style indexes. Using quarterly stock and index data from the end of March 2002 through the end of March 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Global Smart Beta Strategy Diversification

Does global diversification improve smart beta (equity factor) investing strategies? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Diversification Strikes Again: Evidence from Global Equity Factors”, Jay Binstock, Engin Kose and Michele Mazzoleni examine effects of global diversification on equity factor hedge portfolios. They consider five factors:

  1. High-Minus-low Value (HML) – book equity divided by market capitalization.
  2. Small-Minus-Big Size (SMB) – market capitalization.
  3. Winners-Minus-Losers Momentum (WML) – cumulative return from 12 months ago to one month ago.
  4. Conservative-Minus-Aggressive Investment (CMA) – change in total assets.
  5. Robust-Minus-Weak Operating Profitability (RMW) – total sales minus cost of goods sold, selling, general, and administrative expenses and interest, divided by total assets.

They reform each factor portfolio annually at the end of June by: (1) resetting market capitalizations, segregating firms into large (top 90%) and small (bottom 10%); (2) separately for large and small firms, constructing high (top 30% of factor values) minus low (bottom 30%) long-short sub-portfolios; and, (3) averaging returns for the two sub-portfolios to generate factor portfolio returns. They lag firm accounting data by at least six months between fiscal year end and portfolio formation date. They define eight global regions: U.S., Japan, Germany, UK, France, Canada, Other Europe and Asia Pacific excluding Japan. When measuring diversification effects, they consider relatedness of country markets and variation over time. Using the specified firm accounting data and monthly stock returns during October 1990 through February 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

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