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Investing Expertise

Can analysts, experts and gurus really give you an investing/trading edge? Should you track the advice of as many as possible? Are there ways to tell good ones from bad ones? Recent research indicates that the average “expert” has little to offer individual investors/traders. Finding exceptional advisers is no easier than identifying outperforming stocks. Indiscriminately seeking the output of as many experts as possible is a waste of time. Learning what makes a good expert accurate is worthwhile.

Value of Full-service Brokers?

Do individual investors truly benefit from using full service brokers? In the February 2011 draft of their paper entitled “What is the Impact of Financial Advisors on Retirement Portfolio Choices and Outcomes?”, John Chalmers and Jonathan Reuter compare outcomes for those Oregon University System’s Optional Retirement Plan participants who choose a firm that uses brokers to provide personal face-to-face financial services (HIGH level of service) and participants who choose the most popular lower-service firm (LOW level of service). Using demographic and monthly/annual account-level data from earliest availability (mostly 1997 or 1998) through 2009, they find that: Keep Reading

CFOs vs. CEOs as Inside Traders

Are Chief Financial Officers (CFO) better informed than Chief Executive Officers (CEO) when it comes to trading the stocks of their companies? In their March 2011 paper entitled “Are CFOs’ Trades More Informative than CEOs’ Trades?”, Weimin Wang, Yong-Chul Shin and Bill Francis investigate whether open market trades made by CFOs are better predictors of associated stock returns than trades made by CEOs. They examine insider purchases and sales separately instead of using net sales and focus on purchases to avoid non-informative liquidity sales. They calculate abnormal returns relative to 100 benchmark portfolios matched by market capitalization (size) and book-to-market ratio. Using data for 12,936 CEO and 7,049 CFO purchases and 24,527 CEO and 13,909 CFO sales of shares in their companies during January 1992 through July 2002, along with subsequent daily stock returns, benchmark portfolio returns and risk factor data, they find that: Keep Reading

Professional Investor Groups Sharing Value (or Moving Markets)

Do online forums of arguably well-informed investors pay off for their members? In their February 2011 paper entitled “Talking Your Book: Social Networks and Price Discovery”, Wesley Gray and Andrew Kern study the sharing of valuation beliefs by professional investors via a social network. Specifically, they focus on ValueInvestorsClub.com, “designed to facilitate idea sharing among…250 [screened but anonymous] fundamentals-based managers (primarily hedge fund managers) who post detailed summaries of their investment analyses to the website. Once an idea is posted, it is visible to the other club members. Forty-five days after the idea is initially shared within this small community, the club grants public access to the investment thesis through a ‘guest access’ feature available to anyone with an email address.” Using approximately 2,000 long and 250 short recommendations for publicly traded common stocks shared via ValueInvestorsClub.com during 2000 through 2008, along with associated stock return, firm fundamentals and institutional ownership (SEC Form 13F) data, they find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on The Power of Passive Investing

In his 2011 book The Power of Passive Investing: More Wealth with Less Work, author Richard Ferri presents “the detailed studies and undeniable evidence favoring a passive investing approach. …This information clearly shows that trying to beat the market has never been a reliable investment strategy in the past, and there’s no reason to believe it will beat a passive approach in the future. …Attempting to earn above market returns by picking actively managed mutual funds is an inefficient use of time and money. Knowing this fact, and acknowledging it allows you the freedom to go in a different direction–to change religion in a sense. …This book makes the case for passive investing. You’ll have to read other books for details on asset allocation recommendations and fund selection methods.” The book includes 140 citations of formal studies and expert commentaries. Some notable points from the book are: Keep Reading

Outperformance of Hedge Funds: Timing or Asset Selection?

Does hedge fund outperformance derive from systematically superior timing or from superior asset selection? In the December 2010 version of her paper entitled “Can Factor Timing Explain Hedge Fund Alpha?”, Hyuna Park decomposes alpha generated by hedge funds into security selection and timing with respect to eight risk factors (including U.S. and emerging equity risk premiums). Her essential measure of  factor timing performance is degree of fund success in raising (lowering) exposure to a factor when the factor’s return is high (low). For example, a fund with a high equity market beta when stock returns are high and low equity market beta when stock returns are low demonstrates good timing of the equity risk premium. She gives special attention to relatively illiquid hedge funds to ensure that frequent trading does not obscure factor timing ability and considers both aggregate and individual fund performances. Using net returns and other characteristics for 6,114 live and dead hedge funds during 1994-2008, she finds that: Keep Reading

Evolving Informativeness of Insider Trading

Have regulatory changes, such as the reduction in lag time for reporting insider trades specified by the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) from up to 40 calendar days to two business days, improved the informativeness of insider trading data? In his December 2010 paper entitled “Has the Informativeness of Insider Filing Changed Post Sox? Has the Latest Credit Crunch Improved this Informativeness?”, Ashrafee Hossain compares the information content of SEC Form 4 filings before and after SOX,  Regulation FD (October 2000) and the recent credit crisis. He also investigates variation of informativeness with firm size, insider trade size and rank of the trading executive. He focuses on cumulative abnormal (relative to market) return for a two-day trading interval starting with the filing date. Using pre-SOX Form 4 trading and stock price data from January 1, 1996 through August 29, 2002 (1,191 filings) and post-SOX data from the start of mandatory electronic filing on June 30, 2003 through May 31, 2009 (41,603 filings), he finds that: Keep Reading

Secrets of Informed Commodity Futures Traders?

Are there commodity futures traders who consistently outperform? Who are they? What information do they exploit? In the September 2010 version of their paper entitled “Identifying Informed Traders in Futures Markets”, Raymond Fishe and Aaron Smith examine the short-term trading abilities of commodity futures traders by recreating their trading histories. They distinguish between those who trade intraday and those who hold overnight, arguing that the latter are efficient processors of technical trading information, while the former possess the best signals about fundamental short-run price pressures. Using daily positions for 8,921 traders in 12 futures markets over the period January 2000 through May 2009, they find that: Keep Reading

Outperformance Streaks and Mutual Fund Manager Skill

Do documented streaks of market outperformance occur more often than would be expected by chance, thereby supporting belief in investing skill? In their August 2010 paper entitled “Differentiating Skill and Luck in Financial Markets With Streaks”, Andrew Mauboussin and Samuel Arbesman compare actual streaks of mutual fund outperformance relative to the S&P 500 Index to results of 10,000 “no-skill” simulation trials to measure whether skill exists. The simulation assumes that both the number of fund-years per year and the probability that a fund would beat the S&P 500 Index during a year are the same as observed across a large sample of active mutual funds. Using monthly returns for 5,593 actively managed, large-capitalization U.S. mutual funds spanning 1962-2008 (50,693 fund-years), they find that: Keep Reading

CFA or MBA or School of Hard Knocks?

Are a CFA designation, an MBA degree and experience critical success factors for fund managers? In their July 2010 paper entitled “Are You Smarter than a CFA’er? Manager Qualifications and Portfolio Performance”, Oguzhan Dincer, Russell Gregory-Allen and Hany Shawky examine the impact of having an MBA, a CFA and/or investment experience on investment manager performance. They control for market conditions and investing style and seek robustness of results by using five portfolio performance and two risk measures. Using fund performance data and manager characteristics for a sample of 890 managed equity and fixed income portfolios free of survivorship bias over the relatively calm period of 2005-2007, they find that: Keep Reading

Gurus and Incredible Certitude

Many gurus express certitude in their forecasts for asset classes (markets) and specific assets and for their associated investment strategy recommendations. How can they be so sure? If they are not really sure, why would they say they are? In his July 2010 paper entitled “Policy Analysis with Incredible Certitude”, Charles Manski categorizes incredible analytical practices that underlie certitude. His context is public policy, but substitution of “investors” for “public” and “investment strategy” for “policy” seems apt. Based on past study of problems that limit credible prediction, he proposes that: Keep Reading

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