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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.

Sector Rotation vs. Stock Picking

Do expert investors outperform more by being in the right sectors (top-down economic analysis) or by picking the right stocks (bottom-up firm analysis)? In their November 2008 paper entitled “Impact of Sector Versus Security Choice on Equity Portfolios”, Jason Hall and Ben McVicar investigate the relative impact on equity mutual fund returns of industry sector allocation versus individual stock picks. They perform this investigation by constructing sector-neutral and stocks-within-sector-neutral benchmarks. Using data for 3,350 U.S. equity mutual funds over the period 1980-2005 (113,614 fund-quarter observations), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Combining Short Interest and Analyst Recommendations

Are short sellers and expert equity analysts generally in synch or out of synch? What does it mean when short sellers and analysts disagree? In their September 2008 paper entitled “Trading Against the Prophets: Using Short Interest to Profit from Analyst Recommendations”, Michael Drake, Lynn Rees and Edward Swanson investigate whether investors/traders can earn abnormal returns by trading on information provided by expert sell-side analysts (recommendations and recommendation changes) and short sellers (short interest). In their tests, they rebalance portfolios quarterly, hold for six months and adjust returns for firm size. Using a large sample of quarterly return, short interest and analyst recommendation data for the period 1994-2006 period, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Evaluating Investing/Trading Advisory Services

We occasionally get requests from readers to review the claims stated by an online investing/trading advisory service or investment manager. Most such web sites do not provide enough information to perform a quantitative review. Here is compilation of key points to consider in evaluating the claims of advisory services: Keep Reading

Outperformance of Distinctive Hedge Fund Strategies?

Exceptional performance can stem from: (1) doing something others are doing, but doing it better; and (2) doing something different. Do hedge funds that have innovative strategies (do something different) systematically outperform? In their August 2008 paper entitled “Strategy Distinctiveness and Hedge Fund Performance”, Ashley Wang and Lu Zheng construct a “Hedge Fund Strategy Distinctiveness Index” (SDI) and test the predictive power of this index for future hedge fund returns. Specifically, they define SDI as [1 – R-squared] from a two-year regression of the returns for an individual hedge fund against the average returns of funds with the same investing style. This index represents the percentage of variation in a fund’s returns not explained by the variation of its peer’s returns. Using monthly return data for 2767 live and dead hedge funds over the period January 1994 through June 2007, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Hedge Fund Performance Persistence

Can investors count on continued outperformance from hedge funds with exceptionally strong recent returns? In their July 2008 paper entitled “The Performance Persistence of Equity Long/Short Hedge Funds”, Markus Schmid and Samuel Manser apply a flexible portfolio-based approach to investigate the persistence of raw and risk-adjusted returns for long/short equity hedge funds. Using return and holdings data for 1,150 long/short equity hedge funds over the period 1994-2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Value of Financial Advisors?

How do the typical portfolio and performance of self-directed investors differ from those of investors who employ financial advisors? Do financial advisors systematically add value by providing information to, and tempering the irrationalities of, individual investors? In his March 2008 paper entitled “The Influence of Financial Advice on Individual Investor Portfolio Performance”, Marc Kramer compares the investment portfolio content and performance of advised and self directed investors in the Netherlands. Using portfolio data for a diverse mix of 15,675 individual Dutch investors over the 52-month period from April 2003 to August 2007, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Classic Essay: The Foolish, the Theoretical and the Practical

How can investors and speculators tell foolish, theoretical and practical investing/trading schemes apart? In his August 2002 paper entitled “Cranks, Academics and Practitioners”, former head of quantitative strategies at Goldman Sachs Emanuel Derman briefly circumscribes this question. He notes that:

“…[A]s I skimmed through the crank file I found it hard to feel superior. Instead, …I always saw a pale reflection.”

“Holy [the crank], holey [the academic], wholly [the practitioner]. Which approach is best? Sometimes you can’t even tell which approach is which. Finance, after nutrition and psychology, may be the field in which it’s hardest to distinguish between a really enthusiastic academic or practitioner and a genuine crank…”

“Crankademic? Pranktitioner? The real thing? Can one devise a Turing test to tell the difference? The mind reels, boundaries blur, not a bad thing really.”

In summary, it seems that nature to a significant degree favors diversity over survival of the fittest.

Consider reading the entire one-page essay.

Regulations Suppressing Analysts’ Earnings Optimism?

Have Regulation FD (Fair Disclosure) of 2000 and the Global Analyst Research Settlements of 2002 effectively removed incentives for sell-side analysts to curry favor with their own and covered company management teams by issuing inflated earnings forecasts? In their May 2008 paper entitled “Conflicts of Interest and Analyst Behavior: Evidence from Recent Changes in Regulation”, Armen Hovakimian and Ekkachai Saenyasiri investigate whether these two regulatory actions reduced the average analyst earnings forecast bias found in prior studies. Based on the annual earnings forecasts of sell-side analysts and associated actual annual earnings over the period 1984-2006, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Beware the Favorite Investments of Stock Market Gurus?

Do the favorite equity investments of stock market newsletter gurus reliably outperform the market? One way to answer this question is a test of the performance of the favorite investments identified in the historical reports at NewsletterAdvisors.com published from 11/1/05 to 11/1/07. In each of these seven reports, a group of “top investment gurus reveal their favorite investment ideas.” NewsletterAdvisors.com is published by Business Financial Publishing, “a diversified publisher of investment news, research, and analysis for individual investors through paid subscription newsletters, free e-letters, and regular special reports.” Using historical price data from Yahoo!Finance for the sample of 70 favorite investments in in the seven reports and contemporaneous S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) performance data for benchmarking, we find that: Keep Reading

The Timing Performance of Expert Futures Traders

Do Commodity Trading Advisors (CTAs), generally associated with the “managed futures” hedge fund style, successfully time their chosen markets? These traders take long or short positions in investment vehicles with low transaction cost (such as futures contracts) to exploit trends in commodity prices, exchanges rates, interest rates and equity prices. In the February 2008 version of their paper entitled “Market Timing of CTAs: An Examination of Systematic CTAs vs. Discretionary CTAs”, Hossein Kazemi and Ying Li investigate the return and volatility timing ability of CTAs and examine whether there is a difference in market timing abilities between systematic and discretionary traders. To this end, they develop a set of risk factors based on returns from the most heavily traded futures contracts. Using monthly, net-of-fees return data for 1994-2004 (encompassing 278 live and 622 defunct CTA funds), they conclude that: Keep Reading

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