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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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Stock Market Timing Using P/E SMA Signals

A subscriber proposed four alternative ways of timing the U.S. stock market based on simple moving averages (SMA) of the market price-earnings ratio (P/E) , as follows:

  1. 5-Year Binary – hold stocks (cash) when P/E is below (above) its 5-year SMA.
  2. 10-Year Binary – hold stocks (cash) when P/E is below (above) its 10-year SMA.
  3. 15-Year Binary – hold stocks (cash) when P/E is below (above) its 15-year SMA.
  4. 5-Year Scaled – hold 100% stocks (cash) when P/E is five or more units below (above) its 5-year SMA. Between these levels, scale allocations linearly.

To obtain a sample long enough for testing these rules, we use the monthly U.S. data of Robert Shiller. While offering a very long history, this source has the disadvantage of blurring monthly data as averages of daily values. How well do these alternative timing strategies work for this dataset? Using monthly data for the S&P Composite Index, annual dividends, annual P/E and 10-year government bond yield since January 1871 and monthly 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as return on cash since January 1934, all through August 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Mojena Market Timing Model

The Mojena Market Timing strategy (Mojena), developed and maintained by professor Richard Mojena, is a method for timing the broad U.S. stock market based on a combination of many monetary, fundamental, technical and sentiment indicators to predict changes in intermediate-term and long-term market trends. He adjusts the model annually to incorporate new data. Professor Mojena offers a hypothetical backtest of the timing model since 1970 and a live investing test since 1990 based on the S&P 500 Index (with dividends). To test the robustness of the strategy’s performance, we consider a sample period commencing with inception of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a liquid, low-cost proxy for the S&P 500 Index. As benchmarks, we consider both buying and holding SPY (Buy-and-Hold) and trading SPY with crash protection based on the 10-month simple moving average of the S&P 500 Index (SMA10). Using the trade dates from the Mojena Market Timing live test, daily dividend-adjusted closes for SPY and daily yields for 13-week Treasury bills (T-bills) from the end of January 1993 through August 2018 (over 25 years), we 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

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 July 27, 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Gold Timing Strategies

Are there any gold trading strategies that reliably beat buy-and-hold? In their April 2018 paper entitled “Investing in the Gold Market: Market Timing or Buy-and-Hold?”, Viktoria-Sophie Bartsch, Dirk Baur, Hubert Dichtl and Wolfgang Drobetz test 4,095 seasonal, 18 technical, and 15 fundamental timing strategies for spot gold and gold futures. These strategies switch at the end of each month as signaled between spot gold or gold futures and U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill) as the risk-free asset. They assume trading frictions of 0.2% of value traded. To control for data snooping bias, they apply the superior predictive ability multiple testing framework with step-wise extensions. Using monthly spot gold and gold futures prices and T-bill yield during December 1979 through December 2015, with out-of-sample tests commencing January 1990, they find that:

Keep Reading

Stock Index Earnings-returns Lead-lag

A subscriber asked about the lead-lag relationship between S&P 500 earnings and S&P 500 Index returns. To investigate, we relate actual aggregate S&P 500 operating and as-reported earnings to S&P 500 Index returns at both quarterly and annual frequencies. Earnings forecasts are available well in advance of returns. Actual earnings releases for a quarter occur throughout the next quarter. Using quarterly S&P 500 earnings and index levels during March 1988 through March 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

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:

Keep Reading

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

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