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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.

SACEVS with SMA Filter

Does  applying a simple moving average (SMA) filter improve performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS), which seeks diversification across the following three asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) plus cash according to the relative valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums?

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

Since many technical traders use a 10-month SMA (SMA10), we test effectiveness of requiring that each of the ETFs pass an SMA10 filter by comparing performances for three scenarios:

  1. BaselineSACEVS as currently tracked.
  2. With SMA10 Filter – Run Baseline SACEVS and then apply SMA10 filters to dividend-adjusted prices of ETF allocations. If an allocated ETF is above (below) its SMA10, hold the allocation as specified (Cash). This rule is inapplicable to any Cash allocation.
  3. With Half SMA10 Filter – Same as scenario 2, but, if an allocated ETF is above (below) its SMA10, hold the allocation as specified (half the specified allocation and half cash at the T-bill yield).

We focus on compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD) of SACEVS Best Value, SACEVS Weighted and the 60%-40% SPY-TLT benchmark (60-40) portfolios. Using required SACEVS monthly historical data and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period July 2002 (the earliest all ETFs are available) through November 2018, we find that: Keep Reading

Comprehensive Fundamental Factor?

Is there a single variable based on accounting data that reliably captures expected returns of individual stocks? In their October 2018 paper entitled “A Fundamental Factor Model”, Stephen Penman and Julie Zhu construct and test a fundamental expected returns factor based on array of accounting inputs, encompassing earnings, book value and items that sum to these income statement and balance sheet totals. They focus on a robust version of this factor incorporating eight of these inputs (ER8), but consider simpler versions relying on only four (ER4) or two (ER2) inputs. They calculate a premium based on a portfolio that is each month long (short) the equally weighted stocks of firms ranked in the top (bottom) three tenths, or deciles, of the fundamental factor. They update fundamentals yearly three months after firm fiscal year ends from numbers published in annual financial statements. In terms of smart beta terminology, their approach replaces market capitalization weights with fundamentals weights. Using monthly returns and annual financial statements for a broad sample of non-financial U.S. common stocks during April 1981 (or June 1975 or April 1966 for simplified factors) through December 2015, they find that:

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Separate vs. Integrated Equity Factor Portfolios

What is the best way to construct equity multifactor portfolios? In the November 2018 revision of their paper entitled “Equity Multi-Factor Approaches: Sum of Factors vs. Multi-Factor Ranking”, Farouk Jivraj, David Haefliger, Zein Khan and Benedict Redmond compare two approaches for forming long-only equity multifactor portfolios. They first specify ranking rules for four equity factors: value, momentum, low volatility and quality. They then, each month:

  • Sum of factor portfolios (SoF): For each factor, rank all stocks and form a factor portfolio of the equally weighted top 50 stocks (adjusted to prevent more than 20% exposure to any sector). Then form a multifactor portfolio by equally weighting the four factor portfolios.
  • Multifactor ranking (MFR): Rank all stocks by each factor, average the ranks for each stock and form an equally weighted portfolio of those stocks with the highest average ranks, equal in number of stocks to the SoF portfolio (again adjusted to prevent more than 20% exposure to any sector).

They consider variations in number of stocks selected for individual factor portfolios from 25 to 200, with comparable adjustments to the MFR portfolio. They assume trading frictions of 0.05% of turnover. Using monthly data required to rank the specified factors for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks and monthly returns for those stocks and the S&P 500 Total Return Index (S&P 500 TR) during January 2003 through July 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Most Effective U.S. Stock Market Return Predictors

Which economic and market variables are most effective in predicting U.S. stock market returns? In his October 2018 paper entitled “Forecasting US Stock Returns”, David McMillan tests 10-year rolling and recursive (inception-to-date) one-quarter-ahead forecasts of S&P 500 Index capital gains and total returns using 18 economic and market variables, as follows: dividend-price ratio; price-earnings ratio; cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio; payout ratio; Fed model; size premium; value premium; momentum premium; quarterly change in GDP, consumption, investment and CPI; 10-year Treasury note yield minus 3-month Treasury bill yield (term structure); Tobin’s q-ratio; purchasing managers index (PMI); equity allocation; federal government consumption and investment; and, a short moving average. He tests individual variables, four multivariate combinations and and six equal-weighted combinations of individual variable forecasts. He employs both conventional linear statistics and non-linear economic measures of accuracy based on sign and magnitude of forecast errors. He uses the historical mean return as a forecast benchmark. Using quarterly S&P 500 Index returns and data for the above-listed variables during January 1960 through February 2017, he finds that: Keep Reading

Moving Average Timing of Stock Fundamental Ratios

Can investors time premiums associated with widely used stock/firm fundamental ratios? In their September 2018 paper entitled “It Takes Two to Tango: Fundamental Timing in Stock Market”, Fuwei Jiang, Xinlin Qi, Guohao Tang and Nan Huang use a simple moving average (SMA) trend indicator to time premiums associated with four fundamental stock/firm ratios: book-to-market (BM), earnings-to-price (EP), gross profitability (GP), and return-on-assets (ROA). In calculating these ratios, they lag accounting variables by six months to avoid look-ahead bias. For each ratio, they:

  • At the end of each June, rank stocks into tenths (deciles).
  • Each day, calculate value-weighted average returns for the deciles with the highest (highest BM, EP, GP, ROA) and lowest (lowest BM, EP, GP, ROA) expected returns and maintain price indexes for these two deciles.
  • Each day, hold a long (short) position in the decile with highest (lowest) expected returns only when the decile price index is above (below) its 20-day SMA, indicating an upward (downward) trend. When not holding a decile, hold Treasury bills.

As benchmarks, they each year buy and hold four portfolios that are each long (short) the value-weighted deciles with the highest (lowest) expected returns for one of the fundamental ratios. While focusing on a 20-day SMA, for robustness they also test SMAs of 10, 50, 100 and 200 trading days. While focusing on value weighting, they also look at equal weighting. They run tests on both non-financial Chinese A-share stocks and non-financial U.S. common stocks. Using annual groomed fundamentals data and daily returns for Chinese stocks during January 2001-December 2017 and for U.S. stocks during July 1970-December 2017, and contemporaneous Treasury bill yields, they find that:

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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

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:

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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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