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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.

Volatility Scaling for Momentum Strategies?

What is the best way to implement futures momentum and manage its risk? In their November 2017 paper entitled “Risk Adjusted Momentum Strategies: A Comparison between Constant and Dynamic Volatility Scaling Approaches”, Minyou Fan, Youwei Li and Jiadong Liu compare performances of five futures momentum strategies and two benchmarks:

  1. Cross-sectional, or relative, momentum (XSMOM) – each month long (short) the equally weighted tenth of futures contract series with the highest (lowest) returns over the past six months.
  2. XSMOM with constant volatility scaling (CVS) – each month scales the XSMOM portfolio by the ratio of a 12% target volatility to annualized realized standard deviation of daily XSMOM portfolio returns over the past six months.
  3. XSMOM with dynamic volatility scaling (DVS) – each month scales the XSMOM portfolio by the the ratio of next-month expected market return (a function of realized portfolio volatility and whether MSCI return over the last 24 months is positive or negative) to realized variance of XSMOM portfolio daily returns over the past six months.
  4. Time-series, or intrinsic, momentum (TSMOM) – each month long (short) the equally weighted futures contract series with positive (negative) returns over the past six months.
  5. TSMOM with time-varying volatility scaling (TSMOM Scaled) – each month scales the TSMOM portfolio by the ratio of 22.6% (the volatility of an equally weighted portfolio of all future series) to annualized exponentially weighted variance of TSMOM returns over the past six months.
  6. Equally weighted, monthly rebalanced portfolio of all futures contract series (Buy-and-Hold).
  7. Buy-and-Hold with time-varying volatility scaling (Buy-and-Hold Scaled) – each month scales the Buy-and-Hold portfolio as for TSMOM Scaled.

They test these strategies on a multi-class universe of 55 global liquid futures contract series, starting when at least 45 series are available in November 1991. They focus on average annualized gross return, annualized volatility, annualized gross Sharpe ratio, cumulative return and maximum (peak-to-trough) drawdown (MaxDD) as comparison metrics. Using monthly prices for the 55 futures contract series (24 commodities, 13 government bonds, 9 currencies and 9 equity indexes) during June 1986 through May 2017, they find that:

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Live Test of Sophisticated Long-only Stock Momentum Investing

How efficiently can a sophisticated fund manager implement long-only stock momentum portfolios? In their December 2017 paper entitled “Implementing Momentum: What Have We Learned?”, Adrienne Ross, Tobias Moskowitz, Ronen Israel and Laura Serban use seven years of live data for long-only U.S. and international momentum funds to measure the import of implementation frictions. They segment these frictions into turnover/trading costs, tax impacts and mitigating portfolio construction choices. The underlying momentum strategies converge on the top third of stocks based on a combination of market capitalization and momentum signal strength (using multiple measures of momentum), reformed monthly. Portfolio construction employs a transaction cost model to minimize costs by: substituting stocks with similar momentum that are cheaper to trade, trading patiently and employing algorithmic trading rules designed to suppress price impacts of trades. Using detailed trade and performance data for the specified momentum funds during July 9, 2009 through December 31, 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Underestimating Left-tail Persistence Among Individual Stocks?

Do investors underestimate the adverse import of large left tails for future stock returns? In their November 2017 paper entitled “Left-Tail Momentum: Limited Attention of Individual Investors and Expected Equity Returns”, Yigit Atilgan, Turan Bali, Ozgur Demirtas and Doruk Gunaydin investigate the relationship between left-tail risk and next-month returns for U.S. and international stocks. They measure left-tail risk at the end of each month via either of:

  • Value-at-risk (VaR) – daily return of a stock at the first (VAR1) or fifth (VAR5) percentile of its returns over the past one year (250 trading days).
  • Expected shortfall – average daily return of a stock for the bottom 1% (ES1) or bottom 5% (ES5) of its returns over the past year (250 trading days).

They then sort stocks into tenths (deciles) based on left-tail risk and examine variation in next-month average gross returns across deciles. Using daily prices and monthly firm characteristics and risk factors for U.S. stocks with month-end prices at least $5 during January 1962 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

SACEMS with Margin

Is leveraging with margin a good way to boost the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS)? SACEMS each month picks winners from the following set of exchange-traded funds (ETF) based on total returns over a specified lookback interval:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

To investigate effects of margin, we augment SACEMS by: (1) initially applying 2X leverage via margin (limited by Federal Reserve Regulation T); (2) for each month with a positive portfolio return, adding margin at the end of the month to restore 2X leverage; and, (3) for each month with a negative portfolio return, liquidating shares at the end of the month to pay down margin and restore 2X leverage. Margin rebalancings are concurrent with portfolio reformations. We focus on gross monthly Sharpe ratiocompound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) for committed capital as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. We use the 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate and consider a range of margin interest rates as increments to this yield. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during February 2006 (limited by DBC) through October 2017, we find that: Keep Reading

Firm Innovation Group Performance Persistence

Do firms that acquire patents in similar technologies persistently perform similarly? In the October 2017 draft of their paper entitled “Technology and Return Predictability”, Jiaping Qiu, Jin Wang and Yi Zhou examine monthly performance persistence of stocks grouped by similarity in recent firm patent activity. Specifically, they:

  1. Record the patent activity of each firm by patent class over the most recent three calendar years.
  2. Quantify similarity of this patent activity for each pair of firms.
  3. Segregate firms into innovation groups based on patent activity similarity (top fifth of quantified similarities).
  4. For each month during the next calendar year:
    • Rank stocks into fifths (quintiles) based on average prior-month, similarity-weighted return of their respective groups.
    • Form a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the equal-weighted or value-weighted stocks in the highest (lowest) return quintile.

They focus on gross average monthly return and stock return factor model alphas of the hedge portfolio as evidence of firm innovation group performance persistence. Using firm patent information by technology class during 1968 through 2010, and monthly stock data, quarterly institutional holdings and analyst coverage for a broad sample of U.S. stocks priced greater than $1 during 1968 through 2011, they find that:

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Earnings Acceleration as Stock Return Predictor

Do strongly accelerating firm earnings identify future outperforming stocks? In the October 2017 revision of their paper entitled “Earnings Acceleration and Stock Returns”, Shuoyuan He and Ganapathi Narayanamoorthy investigate the power of earnings acceleration (quarter-over-quarter change in earnings growth, which is year-over-year change in quarterly earnings) to predict abnormal stock returns. They test a hedged trading strategy that long (short) the equal-weighted tenth, or decile, of stocks with the highest (lowest) earnings acceleration for two holding intervals: (1) starting two days after earnings announcement and ending on day 30; and, (2) starting two days after earnings announcement and ending one day after the next quarterly earnings announcement. They allocate new earnings accelerations to deciles based on the prior-quarter distribution of values of earnings acceleration. They define abnormal return as that in excess of the capitalization-weighted market return. Using quarterly firm characteristics and earnings data and daily returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks, excluding financial and utility stocks, during January 1972 through December 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Momentum Risk Premium Theory

What makes momentum investing tick? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Understanding the Momentum Risk Premium: An In-Depth Journey Through Trend-Following Strategies”, Paul Jusselin, Edmond Lezmi, Hassan Malongo, Côme Masselin, Thierry Roncalli and Tung-Lam Dao present a theoretical analysis of the momentum risk premium. They assume that asset prices generally exhibit geometric Brownian motion (randomness) with constant volatility, but with a time-varying trend. They examine momentum strategy performance based on this model and test some conclusions empirically on a multi-class set of asset indexes. Based on mathematical derivations and using monthly returns for a universe of four equity, four government bond, three interest rate, five currency and four commodity indexes during January 2000 through July 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

How Best to Diversify Smart Betas

Is it better to build equity multifactor portfolios by holding distinct single-factor sub-portfolios, or by picking only stocks that satisfy multiple factor criteria? In their September 2017 paper entitled “Smart Beta Multi-Factor Construction Methodology: Mixing vs. Integrating”, Tzee-man Chow, Feifei Li and Yoseop Shim compare long-only multifactor portfolios constructed in two ways:

  1. Integrated – each quarter, pick the 20% of stocks with the highest average standardized factor scores and weight by market capitalization.
  2. Mixed – each quarter, hold an equal-weighted combination of single-factor portfolios, each comprised of the capitalization-weighted 20% of stocks with the highest expected returns for that factor. 

They consider five factors: value (book-to-market ratio), momentum (return from 12 months ago to one month ago), operating profitability, investment (asset growth) and low-beta. They reform factor portfolios annually for all except momentum and low-beta, which they reform quarterly. Using firm data required for factor calculations and associated stock returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during June 1968 through December 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Factor Overoptimism?

How efficiently do mutual funds capture factor premiums? In their April 2017 paper entitled “The Incredible Shrinking Factor Return”, Robert Arnott, Vitali Kalesnik and Lillian Wu investigate whether factor tilts employed by mutual fund managers deliver the alpha found in empirical research. They focus on four factors most widely used by mutual fund managers: market, size, value and momentum. They note that ideal long-short portfolios used to compute factor returns ignore costs associated with real-world implementation: trading costs and commissions, missed trades, illiquidity, management fees, borrowing costs for the short side and inability to short some stocks. Portfolio returns also ignore bias associated with data snooping in factor discovery and market adaptation to published research. They focus on U.S. long-only equity mutual funds, but also consider similar international funds. They apply a two-stage regression first to identify fund factor exposures and then to measure performance shortfalls per unit of factor exposure. Using data for 5,323 U.S. and 2,364 international live and dead long-only equity mutual funds during January 1990 through December 2016, they find that:

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Predicted Factor/Smart Beta Alphas

Which equity factors have high and low expected returns? In their February 2017 paper entitled “Forecasting Factor and Smart Beta Returns (Hint: History Is Worse than Useless)”, Robert Arnott, Noah Beck and Vitali Kalesnik evaluate attractiveness of eight widely used stock factors. They measure alpha for each factor conventionally via a portfolio that is long (short) stocks with factor values having high (low) expected returns, reformed systematically. They compare factor alpha forecasting abilities of six models:

  1. Factor return for the last five years.
  2. Past return over the very long term (multiple decades), a conventionally used assumption.
  3. Simple relative valuation (average valuation of long-side stocks divided by average valuation of short-side stocks), comparing current level to its past average.
  4. Relative valuation with shrunk parameters to moderate forecasts by dampening overfitting to past data.
  5. Relative valuation with shrunk parameters and variance reduction, further moderating Model 4 by halving its outputs.
  6. Relative valuation with look-ahead full-sample calibration to assess limits of predictability. 

They employ simple benchmark forecasts of zero factor alphas. Using 24 years of specified stock data (January 1967 – December 1990) for model calibrations, about 20 years of data (January 1991 – October 2011) to generate forecasts and the balance of data (through December 2016) to complete forecast accuracy measurements, they find that: Keep Reading

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