Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for August 2021 (Final)

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for August 2021 (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.

Effects of Capitalizing Intangibles on Factor Models of Stock Returns

Under current U.S. accounting rules, many investments in innovation, human resources and brand that are crucial to long-term competitiveness immediately reduce operating profits and earnings (are expensed rather than capitalized). Does failure to incorporate such intangible investments in firm investment and valuation ratios (book-to-market, profitability and return on equity) harm equity investment decisions? In their January 2021 paper entitled “Intangible Capital in Factor Models”, Huseyin Gulen, Dongmei Li, Ryan Peters and Morad Zekhnini study impacts of capitalizing intangible investments on three widely used factor models of stock returns: 3-factor (market, size, book-to-market)5-factor (adding profitability and investment); and, q-factor (market, size, investment, profitability). They focus on effects of intangibles on book-to-market ratio, investment and profitability. Using accounting data and stock returns for a broad sample of U.S. firms during July 1977 through December 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Poor Firm Management and Stock Returns

Do negative environmental, social and governance (ESG) incidents (environmental pollution,
poor employment conditions or anti-competitive practices) indicate poor firm management and therefore underperforming stocks? In his February 2021 paper entitled “ESG Incidents and Shareholder Value”, Simon Glossner analyzes ESG incident data to determine whether: (1) history is predictive of future ESG incidents; (2) high incident rates impact firm performance: and, (3) the stock market prices incidents. Using over 80,000 incident news items, firm information and stock returns for 2,848 unique U.S. public firms starting January 2007 and a smaller sample for European firms starting January 2009, all through December 2017, he finds that: Keep Reading

Remaking Value Investing

Value investing performance over the past two decades is poor. Is this underperformance a temporary consequence of an unusual macro environment, or a reflection of permanent economic/equity market changes. In their February 2021 paper entitled “Value Investing: Requiem, Rebirth or Reincarnation?”, Bradford Cornell and Aswath Damodaran survey the history and alternative approaches to value investing, with focus on its failure in recent decades. They then discuss how value investing must adapt to recover. Based on the body of value investing research through 2020, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Valuation-based Stock Market Return Expectations

What performance should investors expect from the S&P 500 Index based on price-to-earnings (P/E) and Cyclically-Adjusted Price-to-Earnings (CAPE, or P/E10)? In their November 2020 paper entitled “Extreme Valuations and Future Returns of the S&P 500”, Shaun Rowles and Andrew Mitchell take a layered “regression upon a regression” approach to predict S&P 500 Index returns and level. First, to estimate future returns, they run a linear regression on P/E, P/E10, S&P 500 dividend yield, inflation, 10-year U.S. Treasury note yield, historical 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and 10-year S&P 500 Index returns and percentiles of many of these variables within their respective historical distributions. Then, they run separate linear regressions to predict 1-year, 3-year, 5-year and 10-year future annualized returns. Finally, they run a linear regression to model current S&P 500 Index level for comparison to actual current level. Using Robert Shiller’s U.S. stock market and economic data spanning January 1871 through June 2020, 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 December 2020, we find that:

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Intangible Value Factor

Intangible assets derive largely from investments in employees, brand and knowledge that are expensed rather than booked. Despite large and growing importance of intangible assets, traditional measures of firm value ignore them. Are firm value assessments therefore defective? In their October 2020 paper entitled “Intangible Value”, Andrea Eisfeldt, Edward Kim and Dimitris Papanikolaou evaluate a value factor that includes intangible assets in book equity for each firm (HMLINT) following exactly the methodology used to construct the widely accepted Fama-French value factor (HMLFF). They measure intangible assets based on flows of Selling, General, and Administrative (SG&A) expenses. Using firm accounting data and associated monthly stock returns and Fama-French 5-factor model data for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during January 1975 through December 2018, they find that:

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Timing GBTC Based on Its Inferred Premium

“Evolution of Bitcoin as an Investment” suggests a shift toward acceptance of Bitcoin (BTC) as an investment asset, as do recent actions by some large investors. Grayscale Bitcoin Trust (GBTC) offers a way for investors to access BTC via a fund that manages BTC holdings. GBTC price generally carries a premium over its BTC holdings in consideration for this convenience (17% as of the end of 2020). Does variation in this premium indicate good times to buy and sell GBTC? To investigate, we use the ratio GBTC/BTC (with BTC divided by 1,000 because the prices greatly differ in scale) as an easy way to infer the premium. We then look at ways to exploit variation in the ratio to buy and sell GBTC. Because of the rapid evolution of Bitcoin, we limit analysis to recent data. Using daily closing prices of GBTC and BTC during 2019 through 2020, 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 performances 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 return-risk ratio (average monthly return divided by standard deviation), 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 available sample periods through November 2020, we find that:

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CAPE (P/E10) Version of Fed Model?

How does the Cyclically Adjusted Price-to-Earnings ratio (CAPE, or P/E10) behave during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are its current implications? In the November 2020 revision of their paper entitled “CAPE and the COVID-19 Pandemic Effect”, Robert Shiller, Laurence Black and Farouk Jivraj examine behavior of CAPE during 2020 in the U.S., UK, Europe, Japan and China, highlighting the impact of the pandemic. They apply CAPE to generate current 2-year, 5-year and 10-year equity return forecasts based on full-sample regressions. They then extend the CAPE forecasting approach to forecast changes in excess real return of stocks over bonds (see the chart below) to explore why investors strongly prefer equities over bonds during the pandemic. Finally, they look at sector dynamics within each economy. Using Shiller data during January 1871 through September 2020, 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 June 2020 and September 2020, respectively, we find that: Keep Reading

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