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Intrinsic (Time Series) Momentum Does Not Really Exist?

Posted in Momentum Investing

Does rigorous re-examination of time series (intrinsic or absolute) asset return momentum confirm its statistical and economic significance? In their April 2018 paper entitled "Time-Series Momentum: Is it There?", Dashan Huang, Jiangyuan Li, Liyao Wang and Guofu Zhou conduct a three-stage review of evidence for predictability of next-month returns based on past 12-month returns for a broad set of asset futures/forwards:

  1. They first run a time series regression of monthly returns versus past 12-month returns for each asset to check predictability for individual assets.
  2. They then run pooled time series regressions for asset returns scaled by respective volatilities as done in prior research, overall and by asset class, noting that pooled regressions can inflate conventional t-statistics and thereby incorrectly reject the null hypothesis. To correct for this predictability inflation, they apply three kinds of bootstrapping simulations.
  3. Finally, they consider a simple alternative explanation of the profitability of an intrinsic momentum strategy tested in prior research that each month buys (sells) assets with positive (negative) past 12-month returns, with the portfolio weight for each asset 40% divided by its past annualized volatility (asset-level target volatility 40%).

Their asset sample consists of 55 contract series spanning commodity futures (24), equity index futures (9), government bond futures (13) and currency forwards (9). They construct returns for an asset by each day calculating excess return for the nearest or next-nearest contract and compounding to compute monthly excess return. Using daily excess returns for the 55 contract series during January 1985 through December 2015, they find that:

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