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Momentum Investing

Do financial market prices reliably exhibit momentum? If so, why, and how can traders best exploit it? These blog entries relate to momentum investing/trading.

Best Factor Model of U.S. Stock Returns?

Which equity factors from among those included in the most widely accepted factor models are really important? In their October 2019 paper entitled “Winners from Winners: A Tale of Risk Factors”, Siddhartha Chib, Lingxiao Zhao, Dashan Huang and Guofu Zhou examine what set of equity factors from among the 12 used in four models with wide acceptance best explain behaviors of U.S. stocks. Their starting point is therefore the following market, fundamental and behavioral factors:

They compare 4,095 subsets (models) of these 12 factors models based on: Bayesian posterior probability; out-of-sample return forecasting performance; gross Sharpe ratios of the optimal mean variance factor portfolio; and, ability to explain various stock return anomalies. Using monthly data for the selected factors during January 1974 through December 2018, with the first 10 (last 12) months reserved for Bayesian prior training (out-of-sample testing), they find that: Keep Reading

SACEMS, SACEVS and Trading Calendar Updates

We have updated monthly allocations and performance data for the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS). We have also updated performance data for the Combined Value-Momentum Strategy.

We have updated the Trading Calendar to incorporate data for November 2019.

Preliminary SACEMS and SACEVS Allocation Updates

The home page, Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) now show preliminary positions for December 2019. For SACEMS, the top four positions are in close competition, so the top three may change by the early close. For SACEVS, allocations are unlikely to change.

Multi-year ETF Momentum

Do U.S. equity exchange-traded funds (ETF) exhibit long-term momentum? In their October 2019 paper entitled “ETF Momentum”, Frank Li, Melvyn Teo and Chloe Yang investigate future performance of U.S. equity ETFs sorted on multi-year past returns. Each month starting August 2004, they:

  1. Sort selected ETFs into tenths (deciles) based on returns over the past two, three or four years, with focus on three years.
  2. Reform an equal-weighted (EW) or value-weighted (VW) portfolio that is long (short) the decile with the highest (lowest) past returns, with focus on value-weighted.

They then evaluate performances of deciles and long-short portfolios based on raw return, 4-factor (adjusting for market, size, book-to-market and momentum) alpha and 5-factor (replacing momentum with profitability and investment) alpha. Using monthly returns, market capitalizations and net asset values for all U.S. equity ETFs with capitalizations greater than $20 million and share price greater than one dollar during August 2000 through June 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Including Basis to Qualify Multi-class Intrinsic Momentum

Does including a measure of asset valuation as a qualifier improve the performance of intrinsic (absolute or time series) momentum? In their October 2019 paper entitled “Carry and Time-Series Momentum: A Match Made in Heaven”, Marat Molyboga, Junkai Qian and Chaohua He investigate modification of an intrinsic momentum strategy as applied to futures using the sign of the basis (difference between nearest and next-nearest futures prices) for four asset classes: equity indexes (12 series), fixed income (18 series), currencies (7 series) and commodities (28 series). Their benchmark intrinsic momentum strategy is long (short) assets with positive (negative) returns over the last 12 months, with either: (1) equal allocations to assets, or (2) dynamic allocations that each month target 40% annualized volatility for each contract series. The modified strategy limits long (short) positions to assets with positive (negative) prior-month basis. They account for frictions due to portfolio rebalancing and rolling of contracts using cost estimates from a prior study. They focus on Sharpe ratio to assess strategy performance. Using monthly returns for 65 relatively liquid futures contract series during January 1975 through December 2016, they find that:

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SACEMS Optimization in Depth

The Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) each month picks the one, two or three of nine asset class proxies with the highest cumulative total returns over a specified lookback interval. A subscriber proposed instead using the optimal intrinsic (time series or absolute) momentum lookback interval for each asset rather than a common lookback interval for all assets. SACEMS and the proposed approach represent different beliefs (which could both be somewhat true), as follows:

  • Many investors adjust asset class allocations with some regularity, such that behaviors of classes are important and coordinated.
  • Many investors switch between specific asset classes and cash with some regularity, such that each class may exhibit distinct times series behavior. 

To investigate, we consider two ways to measure intrinsic momentum for each asset class proxy:

  1. Correlation between next-month return and average monthly return over the past one to 12 months. The lookback interval with the highest correlation has the strongest (linear) relationship between past and future returns and is optimal.
  2. Intrinsic momentum, measured as compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for a strategy that is in the asset (cash) when its total return over the past one to 12 months is positive (zero or negative). The lookback interval with the highest CAGR is optimal.

We use the two sets of optimal lookback intervals (optimization-in-depth) to calculate momentum for each asset class proxy as its average monthly return over its optimal lookback interval. We then compare performance statistics for these two alternatives to those for base SACEMS, focusing on: gross CAGR for several intervals; average gross annual return; standard deviation of annual returns; gross annual Sharpe ratio; and, gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD). Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for SACEMS asset class proxies during February 2006 through September 2019, we find that:

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The Decision Moose Asset Allocation Framework

A reader requested review of the Decision Moose asset allocation framework. Decision Moose is “an automated stock, bond, and gold momentum model developed in 1989. Index Moose uses technical analysis and exchange traded index funds (ETFs) to track global investment flows in the Americas, Europe and Asia, and to generate a market timing signal.” The trading system allocates 100% of funds to the index projected to perform best. The site includes a history of switch recommendations since the end of August 1996, with gross performance. To evaluate Decision Moose, we assume that switches and associated trading returns are as described (out of sample, not backtested) and compare the returns to those for dividend-adjusted SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) over the same intervals. Using Decision Moose signals/performance data and contemporaneous SPY prices during 8/30/96 through 9/30/19 (23+ years), we find that: Keep Reading

Are Equity Multifactor ETFs Working?

Are equity multifactor strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider seven ETFs, all currently available (in order of decreasing assets):

  • Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity (GSLC) – holds large U.S. stocks based on good value, strong momentum, high quality and low volatility.
  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor International (INTF) – holds global developed market ex U.S. large and mid-cap stocks based on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Mid Cap (JHMM) – holds mid-cap U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor USA (LRGF) – holds large and mid-cap U.S. stocks with focus on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Large Cap (JHML) – holds large U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • JPMorgan Diversified Return U.S. Equity (JPUS) – holds U.S. stocks based on value, quality and momentum via a risk-weighting process that lowers exposure to historically volatile sectors and stocks.
  • Xtrackers Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor (DEUS) – seeks to track, before fees and expenses, the Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor Index, which seeks exposure to quality, value, momentum, low volatility and size factors.

Because available sample periods are very short, we focus on daily return statistics, along with cumulative returns. We use four benchmarks according to fund descriptions: SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), iShares MSCI ACWI ex US (ACWX), SPDR S&P MidCap 400 (MDY) and iShares Russell 1000 (IWB). Using daily returns for the seven equity multifactor ETFs and benchmarks as available through September 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Sector Breadth as Market Return Indicator

Does breadth of equity sector performance predict overall stock market return? To investigate, we relate next-month stock market return to sector breadth (number of sectors with positive past returns) over lookback intervals ranging from 1 to 12 months. We consider the following nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) offered as Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) to represent the overall stock market. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY and the sector ETFs during December 1998 through August 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Long-only Stock Momentum with Volatility Timing

What is the best way to avoid stock momentum portfolio crashes? In her July 2019 paper entitled “Momentum with Volatility Timing”, Yulia Malitskaia tests a long-only volatility-timed stock momentum strategy that exits holdings when strategy volatility over a past interval exceeds a specified threshold. She focuses on a recent U.S. sample that includes the 2008-2009 market crash and its aftermath. She considers the following momentum portfolios:

  • WML10 – each month long (short) the tenth, or decile, of stocks with the highest (lowest) returns from 12 months ago to one month ago.
  • W10 and L10 – WML10 winner and loser sides separately.
  • WML10-Scaled – adjusts WML10 exposure according to the ratio of a volatility target to actual WML10 annualized daily volatility over the past six months. This approach seeks to mitigate poor returns when WML10 volatility is unusually high.
  • W10-Timed – holds W10 (cash, with zero return) when W10 volatility over the past six months is below (at or above) a specified threshold. This approach seeks to avoid poor post-crash, loser-driven WML10 performance and poor W10  performance during crashes.

She performs robustness tests on  MSCI developed and emerging markets risk-adjusted momentum indexes. Using daily and monthly returns for W10 and L10 portfolios since 1980 and for MSCI momentum indexes since 2000, all through 2018, she finds that:

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