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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.

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Better Five-factor Model of Stock Returns?

Which factor models of stock returns are currently best? In their June 2018 paper entitled “q5,  Kewei Hou, Haitao Mo, Chen Xue and Lu Zhang, introduce the q5 model of stock returns, which adds a fifth factor (expected growth) to the previously developed q-factor model (market, size, asset growth, return on equity). They measure expected growth as 1-year, 2-year and 3-year ahead changes in investment-to-assets (this year total assets minus last year total assets, divided by last year total assets) as forecasted monthly via predictive regressions. They define an expected growth factor as average value-weighted returns for top 30% 1-year expected growth minus bottom 30% 1-year expected growth, calculated separately and further averaged for big and small stocks. They examine expected growth as a standalone factor and then conduct an empirical horse race of recently proposed 4-factor, 5-factor (including q5) and 6-factor models of stock returns based on their abilities to explain average return differences for value-weighted extreme tenth (decile) portfolios for 158 significant anomalies. Using monthly return and accounting data for a broad sample of non-financial U.S. common stocks during July 1963–December 2016, they find that:

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Beware Changes in Firm Financial Reporting Practices?

Do changes in firm financial reporting practices signal bad news to come? In the February 2018 update of their paper entitled “Lazy Prices”, Lauren Cohen, Christopher Malloy and Quoc Nguyen investigate relationships between changes in firm financial reporting practices (SEC 10-K, 10-K405, 10-KSB and 10-Q filings) and future firm/stock performance. They focus on quarter-to-quarter changes in content bases on four distinct textual similarity metrics. Each month, they rank all firms into fifths (quintiles) for each of the four metrics. They then compute equally weighted or value-weighted returns for these quintiles over future months (such that there are overlapping portfolios for each quintile and each metric), with stock weights within quintile portfolios rebalanced monthly for equal weighting. They measure the effect of changes in financial reporting practices as monthly return for a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the quintile with the smallest (greatest) past changes. Using the specified quarterly and annual SEC filings by U.S. corporations from the Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval (EDGAR) database and corresponding monthly stock returns during 1995 through 2014, they find that:

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Industry vs. Academia on Asset Quality

How well do different measures of stock quality perform as portfolio screens? In the May 2018 update of paper entitled “Does Earnings Growth Drive the Quality Premium?”, Georgi Kyosev, Matthias Hanauer, Joop Huij and Simon Lansdorp review commonly used quality definitions, test their respective powers to predict stock returns and analyze usefulness in constructing international stocks and corporate bonds settings. They consider the following definitions of quality:

  • Industry – return on equity (ROE); earnings-to-sales ratio (margin); annual growth in ROE; total debt-to-common equity (leverage); and, earnings variability.
  • Academia – gross profitability; accruals; and, net stock issues.

To compare predictive powers, at the end of each month they rank assets into fifths (quintiles) based on each metric and examine equally weighted performances of these quintiles. They calculate gross annualized average excess returns (relative to the risk-free rate) and gross annualized Sharpe ratios for the top and bottom quintiles and the difference between these two quintiles (top-minus-bottom). They also calculate four-factor (market, size, book-to-market and momentum) alphas for top-minus-bottom portfolios. They further analyze equally weighted combinations of all industry metrics and all academic metrics. They consider the largest stocks globally, regionally and from emerging markets. For robustness, they also consider samples of investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (with a 12-month rather than one-month holding interval). Using samples of relatively large non-financial common stocks for developed markets (starting December 1985) and emerging markets (starting December 1992) and samples of investment-grade and high-yield corporate bonds (starting January 1994) through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Firm Sales Seasonality as Stock Return Predictor

Do firms with predictable sales seasonality continually “surprise” investors with good high season (bad low season) sales and thereby have predictable stock return patterns? In their May 2018 paper entitled “When Low Beats High: Riding the Sales Seasonality Premium”, Gustavo Grullon, Yamil Kaba and Alexander Nuñez investigate firm sales seasonality as a stock return predictor. Specifically, for each quarter, after excluding negative and zero sales observations, they divide quarterly sales by annual sales for that year. To mitigate impact of outliers, they then average same-quarter ratios over the past two years. They then each month:

  1. Use the most recent average same-quarter, two-year sales ratio to predict the ratio for next quarter for each firm.
  2. Rank firms into tenths (deciles) based on predicted sales ratios.
  3. Form a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the market capitalization-weighted stocks of firms in the decile with the lowest (highest) predicted sales ratios.

Their hypothesis is that investors undervalue (overvalue) stocks experiencing seasonally low (high) sales. They measure portfolio monthly raw average returns and four alphas based on 1-factor (market), 3-factor (market, size, book-to-market), 4-factor (adding momentum to the 3-factor model) and 5-factor (adding profitability and investment to the 3-factor model) models of stock returns. Using data for a broad sample of non-financial U.S common stocks during January 1970 through December 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Using Long-horizon Returns to Predict/Time the Stock Market

Is use of a sampling interval much shorter than input variable measurement interval a useful statistical practice in financial markets research? In the April 2018 update of their paper entitled “Long Horizon Predictability: A Cautionary Tale”, flagged by a subscriber, Jacob Boudoukh, Ronen Israel and Matthew Richardson examine statistical reliability gains from overlapping measurements of long-horizon variables (such as daily or monthly sampling of 5-year returns or 10-year moving average earnings). They employ the widely used cyclically adjusted price earnings ratio (CAPE, or P/E10) for some examples. Based on illustrations and mathematical derivations, they conclude that: Keep Reading

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), which “seeks to provide investment results that exceed broad U.S. Equity benchmark indices at equivalent levels of volatility.” More specifically, offeror EquBot: “…leverages IBM’s Watson AI to conduct an objective, fundamental analysis of U.S.-listed common stocks and real estate investment trusts…based on up to ten years of historical data and apply that analysis to recent economic and news data. Each day, the EquBot Model ranks each company based on the probability of the company benefiting from current economic conditions, trends, and world events and identifies approximately 30 to 70 companies with the greatest potential over the next twelve months for appreciation and their corresponding weights, while maintaining volatility…comparable to the broader U.S. equity market. The Fund may invest in the securities of companies of any market capitalization. The EquBot model recommends a weight for each company based on its potential for appreciation and correlation to the other companies in the Fund’s portfolio. The EquBot model limits the weight of any individual company to 10%.” We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a simple benchmark for AIEQ performance. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes of AIEQ and SPY from AIEQ inception (October 18, 2017) through April 30, 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Do High-dividend Stock ETFs Beat the Market?

A subscriber asked about current evidence that high-dividend stocks outperform the market. To investigate from a practical perspective, we compare the performance of five high-dividend stock exchange-traded funds (ETFs) with relatively long histories to that of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a proxy for the U.S. stock market. The five high-dividend stock ETFs are:

iShares Select Dividend (DVY), with inception November 2003.
PowerShares Dividend Achievers ETF (PFM), with inception September 2005.
SPDR S&P Dividend ETF (SDY), with inception November 2005.
WisdomTree Dividend ex-Financials ETF (DTN), with inception June 2006.
Vanguard High Dividend Yield ETF (VYM), with inception November 2006.

For each of these ETFs, we compare average monthly total (dividend-reinvested) return, standard deviation of total monthly returns, monthly reward-to-risk ratio (average monthly return divided by standard deviation of monthly returns), compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) to those for SPY over matched sample periods. We also look at alphas and betas for the five ETFs based on simple regressions of monthly returns versus SPY returns. Using monthly total returns for the five high-dividend stock ETFs and SPY over the available sample periods through February 2018, we find that:

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Will the November 2016-December 2017 Run-up in U.S. Stocks Stick?

Is the strong gain in the U.S. stock market following the November 2016 national election rational or irrational? In their February 2018 paper “Why Has the Stock Market Risen So Much Since the US Presidential Election?”, flagged by a subscriber, Olivier Blanchard, Christopher Collins, Mohammad Jahan-Parvar, Thomas Pellet and Beth Anne Wilson examine sources of the 25% U.S. stock market advance during November 2016 through December 2017. They consider four sources: (1) increases in actual and expected dividends; (2) perceived probability and the fact of a reduction in the corporate tax rate; (3) decrease in the U.S. equity risk premium; and, (4) an irrational price bubble. For the impact of the tax rate reduction on corporate income, they use estimates from the Joint Congressional Committee on Taxation. For the relationship between dividends and the equity risk premium, they assume the difference between dividend-price ratio and risk-free rate equals equity risk premium minus expected dividend growth rate. They also consider the effect of U.S. and European economic policy uncertainty on the U.S. equity risk premium. Using the specified data during November 2016 (and earlier for validation) through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

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. Operating under a 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? Using the most recent actual and forecasted earnings and dividend data from Standard & Poor’s, we find that: Keep Reading

Bitcoin Return Based on Supply and Demand Model

Does the increase in number of Bitcoin wallets at a rate that far exceeds growth in number of Bitcoins explain the dramatic rise in Bitcoin price? In the December revision of his paper entitled “Metcalfe’s Law as a Model for Bitcoin’s Value”, Timothy Peterson models Bitcoin price according to Metcalfe’ Law, which posits that the value of a network (Bitcoin) is a function of the number of possible pair connections (among Bitcoin wallets, assuming all are equal) and is therefore proportional to the square of the number of participants. Said differently, he models Bitcoin value based on supply (number of Bitcoins) and demand (number of Bitcoin wallets). Per Metcalfe’s Law, Bitcoin return is proportional to twice the growth rate of Bitcoin wallets. He tests the model via a least squares regression of actual Bitcoin price on modeled price with adjustment for inflation due to new Bitcoin creation. He applies the model to investigate claims of Bitcoin price manipulation during 2013-2014. Using number of Bitcoins and number of Bitcoin wallets at 60-day intervals during December 31, 2011 through September 30, 2017, he finds that:

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