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)
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Fundamental Valuation

What fundamental measures of business success best indicate the value of individual stocks and the aggregate stock market? How can investors apply these measures to estimate valuations and identify misvaluations? These blog entries address valuation based on accounting fundamentals, including the conventional value premium.

Testing the Buffett Indicator Outside the U.S.

Is the Buffett Indicator, the ratio of total stock market capitalization to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a useful indicator of future stock market performance internationally? In their March 2022 paper entitled “The Buffett Indicator: International Evidence”, Laurens Swinkels and Thomas Umlauft extend Buffett Indicator research from the U.S. to 14 international equity markets. Because the value of the indicator varies so much across countries at a given time (for example, 1.48 for the U.S. and 0.55 for Germany at the end of 2019), they first look at time-series predictability of returns by the Buffett Indicator within each country. They then compare predictive power of the Buffett Indicator to those of Shiller’s cyclically-adjusted price-to-earnings ratio (CAPE or P/E10) and mean-reversion in stock returns. Finally, they test a trading strategy that invests in the stock markets of those countries having low values of the Buffett Indicator relative to their respective (expanding window) histories. Using stock market valuation and earnings data and GDP series for 14 countries as available during 1973 through 2019, they find that:

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Finding Stocks with Persistent Momentum

Can investors improve the performance of stock momentum portfolios by isolating stocks that “hold” their momentum? In their April 2022 paper entitled “Enduring Momentum”, Hui Zeng, Ben Marshall, Nhut Nguyen and Nuttawat Visaltanachoti exploit firm characteristics to identify stocks that continue to be winners or losers after selection as momentum stocks (stocks with enduring momentum). They measure momentum by each month ranking stocks into equal-weighted tenths, or deciles, based on past 6-month returns, with the top (bottom) decile designated winners (losers). They then develop a model that uses information from 37 firm characteristics to estimate each month the probability that each winner or loser stock will continue as a winner or loser during each of the next six months. They verify that the model reasonably predicts momentum persistence and proceed to test the economic value of the predictions by each month reforming an enduring momentum hedge portfolio that is long (short) the 10 equal-weighted winner (loser) stocks with the highest probabilities of remaining winners (losers) and holding the portfolio for six months. They compare the performance of this portfolio to that of a conventional momentum portfolio that is each month long the entire winner decile and short the entire loser decile, also held for six months. Using returns for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks priced over $1.00 and 37 associated firm characteristics during January 1980 through December 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

SACEVS with SMA Filter

The “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) allocates across 3-month Treasury bills (Cash, or T-bill), iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT), iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD) and SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) according to the relative valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums. Does applying a simple moving average (SMA) filter to SACEVS allocations improve its performance? Since many technical traders use a 10-month SMA (SMA10), we apply SMA10 filters to dividend-adjusted prices of TLT, LQD and SPY allocations. If an allocated asset is above (below) its SMA10, we allocate as specified (to Cash). This rule does not apply to any Cash allocation. We focus on gross compound annual growth rates (CAGR), maximum drawdowns (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratios (using average monthly T-bill yield during a year as the risk-free rate for that year) of SACEVS Best Value and SACEVS Weighted portfolios. We compare to baseline SACEVS as currently tracked and to the SMA rule applied to a 60%-40% monthly rebalanced SPY-TLT benchmark portfolio (60-40). Finally, we test sensitivity of main findings to varying the SMA lookback interval. Using SACEVS historical data, monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and yield for Cash during July 2002 (the earliest all funds are available) through March 2022, we find that:

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Stock Market Valuation Ratio Trends

To determine whether the stock market is expensive or cheap, some experts use aggregate valuation ratios, either trailing or forward-looking, such as earnings-price ratio (E/P) and dividend yield. Under belief that such ratios are mean-reverting, most imminently due to movement of stock prices, these experts expect high (low) future stock market returns when these ratios are high (low). Where are the ratios now and how are they changing during recent months? Using recent actual and forecasted earnings and dividend data from Standard & Poor’s and associated S&P 500 Index levels as available through March 18, 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Market Earnings Yield and Inflation Over the Long Run

How does the U.S. stock market earnings yield (inverse of price-to-earnings ratio, or E/P) interact with the U.S. inflation rate over the long run? Is any such interaction exploitable? To investigate, we employ the long run dataset of Robert Shiller. Using monthly data for the S&P Composite Stock Index, estimated aggregate trailing 12-month earnings and dividends for the stocks in this index, and estimated U.S. Consumer Price Index (CPI) during January 1871 through February 2022 (over 151 years), and estimated monthly yield on 1-year U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) since January 1951, we find that:

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Online, Real-time Test of AI Stock Picking

Will equity funds “managed” by artificial intelligence (AI) outperform human investors? To investigate, we consider the performance of AI Powered Equity ETF (AIEQ). Per the offeror, the EquBot model supporting AIEQ: “…leverages IBM’s Watson AI to conduct an objective, fundamental analysis of U.S. domiciled common stocks, including Special Purpose Acquisitions Corporations (“SPAC”), and real estate investment trusts (“REITs”) based on up to ten years of historical data and apply that analysis to recent economic and news data… Each day, the EquBot Model…identifies approximately 30 to 200 companies with the greatest potential over the next twelve months for appreciation and their corresponding weights, targeting a maximum risk adjusted return versus the broader U.S. equity market. …The EquBot model limits the weight of any individual company to 10%. At times, a significant portion of the Fund’s assets may consist of cash and cash equivalents.” We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a simple benchmark for AIEQ performance. Using daily and monthly dividend-adjusted closes of AIEQ and SPY from AIEQ inception (October 18, 2017) through February 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Climate Solutions Stocks

Are firms offering products and services purported to mitigate climate change compelling investments? In the February 2022 revision of their paper entitled “Climate Solutions Investments”, Alexander Cheema-Fox, George Serafeim and Hui Wang analyze international reports, regional net zero frameworks, research papers and news to develop a list of 164 key words/phrases associated with climate change solution business areas. They apply these key words/phrases to firm descriptions to identify 632 actively traded pure plays in climate solutions. They then characterize geographies, accounting fundamentals and valuation ratios for this sample and construct monthly rebalanced value-weighted and equal-weighted climate solutions portfolios (CSP). Using monthly firm fundamentals and stock trading data for these 632 firms from the end of 2010 through October 2021, they find that: Keep Reading

Consumer Credit and Consumer Discretionary Sector Returns

“Consumer Credit and Stock Returns” finds that expansion (contraction) of consumer credit, available monthly from the Federal reserve with a delay of about five weeks, has little or no power to predict overall stock market returns. Might consumer credit be useful in predicting returns for just the consumer discretionary sector, as proxied by Consumer Discretionary Select Sector SPDR Fund (XLY)? Using monthly seasonally adjusted total U.S. consumer credit and monthly dividend-adjusted prices for XLY as available during December 1998 (inception of XLY) through January 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Luxury Goods Stock Premium

Do stocks of firms focused on luxury goods outperform those of more prosaic companies? In his June 2019 paper entitled “Demand-Driven Risk and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns”, Alejandro Lopez-Lira examines aggregate performance of firms selling goods with high income elasticity (luxury goods), assuming that such firms are particularly exposed to demand-driven risk (consumption shocks). Hypothesizing that advertising, customer support and new feature development costs are relatively high for such firms, he proposes three accounting-based measures of demand-driven risk exposure:

  1. Indirect cost ratio (selling, general and administrative expenses, divided by cost of goods sold plus selling, general and administrative expenses).
  2. Indirect costs-to-net sales ratio.
  3. One minus the direct costs-to-net sales ratio.

He excludes financial, utilities, mining, petroleum refining and pharmaceuticals firms from analysis due to their insulation from consumer demand. Each June, he ranks remaining firms into fifths (quintiles) based on their indirect cost ratios, with the highest quintile most exposed to demand-driven risk. He then tracks monthly returns of the value-weighted quintiles over the next year. He further investigates interactions of demand-driven risk with competitive pressure, measuring the latter via textual analysis of Form 10-K submittals to gauge competitor product similarities/sales. Using annual accounting data, monthly stock prices and annual Form 10-Ks for the specified firms and contemporaneous monthly factor model returns as available during January 1962 through December 2016, he finds that:

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Accounting for Past Return to ESG Stocks

Does past performance of Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) stocks derive mostly from shift in demand from other stocks to ESG stocks? In his September 2021 paper entitled “Flow-Driven ESG Returns”, Philippe van der Beck examines whether flow of investor dollars toward ESG mutual funds explains aggregate performance of ESG stocks, as follows:

  • Construct an ESG portfolio that aggregates quarterly holdings of U.S. equity mutual funds that assert sustainability mandates.
  • Measure perceived sustainability of each stock by calculating the deviation of its ESG portfolio weight from its market portfolio weight.
  • Estimate the price pressure due to a flow of dollars into ESG mutual funds.
  • Combine perceived stock sustainability and price pressure to explore sensitivity of past ESG portfolio returns to level of dollar flow into ESG mutual funds.

Using mutual fund descriptions (with respect to importance of sustainability in investment decisions) and quarterly Form 13F mutual fund holdings data during 2000 through 2020, and underlying stock prices through the first quarter of 2021, he finds that:

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