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Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for July 2020 (Final)
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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.

Amplifying Momentum with Negatively Correlated Funds?

In the brief August 2011 paper entitled “Paired-switching for Tactical Portfolio Allocation”, flagged by a subscriber, Akhilesh Maewal and Joel Bock investigate the efficiency of a simple momentum strategy applied to pairs of exchange-traded funds (ETF) with negative return correlations. Every 13 weeks (four times per year), they rank the performances of the two funds over the prior thirteen weeks and buy the fund that has the higher return. They ignore trading frictions. Using weekly adjusted closing levels of SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treas Bond (TLT), iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA) and Vanguard Total Stock Market ETF (VTI) over the period from about October 2002 through about June 2011, they find that: Keep Reading

ETF Momentum Strategy Updates/Extension

Over the past few days, in the background, we have updated and rationalized “Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy” (update pending) and “Doing Momentum with Style (ETFs)” (update just published). Updated means adding data for December 2011. Rationalized means making the two analyses more similar in data processing and presentation approaches.

We have also put together, and will soon publish, a new “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” that extends the general methodology to a set of exchange-traded funds (ETF) plus cash that proxy for nine asset classes.

During this process, because of growing complexity, we introduced logical programming that automates identification of monthly ETF winners and loading of subsequent monthly returns. In validating this programming, we found errors in old winners data for “Doing Momentum with Style (ETFs)” that were material to findings because they occurred during high market volatility. Specifically, the errors led to incorrect conclusions that a simple momentum strategy applied to style ETFs likely outperforms both an equally weighted portfolio of style ETFs and a simple momentum strategy applied to sector ETFs. After correction of the errors in today’s update, findings are that a simple momentum strategy applied to style ETFs performs about the same as an equally weighted portfolio of style ETFs and a simple momentum strategy applied to sector ETFs. We apologize for the errors.

We found no such errors in “Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy”.

Exploiting Idiosyncratic Volatility in Commodity Futures

Can investors exploit idiosyncratic volatility exhibited by commodity futures? In their December 2011 paper entitled “Idiosyncratic Volatility Strategies in Commodity Futures Markets”, Adrian Fernancez-Perez, Ana-Maria Fuertes and Joelle Miffre investigate the usefulness of idiosyncratic volatility as a predictor of commodity futures returns. They define idiosyncratic volatility of commodity futures as return volatility not explained by contemporaneous variation in hedging pressure. They calculate hedging pressure from CFTC Commitments of Traders reports by relating long positions to total positions across trader categories. Return calculations assume: (1) holding the first nearby contract up to one month before maturity and then rolling to the next-nearest contract; (2) trading on a fully collateralized basis, meaning that half of trading capital earns the risk-free rate (three-month Treasury bill yield); and, (3) reporting only returns in excess of the risk-free rate, which averages about 3.3% annually over the sample period. They test all combinations of commodity ranking (whether for idiosyncratic volatility, return momentum or roll return) and portfolio holding intervals of 4, 13, 26 and 52 weeks. They calculate alpha by regressing long-short commodity futures portfolio returns against the same-interval hedging pressure risk premium. Using Friday settlement prices of nearest and second-nearest contracts for 27 commodity futures and weekly hedging pressure data during September 30, 1992 through March 25, 2011, they find that: Keep Reading

Leveraged Style ETF (2X and -2X) Momentum Strategy

A subscriber suggested applying a simple momentum trading strategy to a set of leveraged equity style (size, value-growth) exchanged-traded funds (ETF), including leveraged long and leveraged short counterparts to exploit both positive and negative markets. It seems plausible that leverage may make funds react quickly and strongly to business cycle shifts that affect style performance. However, the costs of maintaining leverage are countervailing. We test a set of 12 ProShares 2X and -2x leveraged sector ETFs, all of which have trading data back at least as far as April 2007:

ProShares Ultra Russell1000 Value (UVG)
ProShares Ultra Russell1000 Growth (UKF)
ProShares Ultra Russell MidCap Value (UVU)
ProShares Ultra Russell MidCap Growth (UKW)
ProShares Ultra Russell2000 Value (UVT)
ProShares Ultra Russell2000 Growth (UKK)

ProShares UltraShort Russell1000 Value (SJF)
ProShares UltraShort Russell1000 Growth (SFK)
ProShares UltraShort Russell MidCap Val (SJL)
ProShares UltraShort Russell MCap Growth (SDK)
ProShares UltraShort Russell2000 Value (SJH)
ProShares UltraShort Russell2000 Growth (SKK)

As in “Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy Performance” and “Doing Momentum with Style (ETFs)”, we consider a basic momentum strategy that allocates all funds at the end of each month to the ETF with the highest total return over the past six months (6-1). Using monthly adjusted closing prices for the 12 leveraged style ETFs and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period April 2007 through November 2011 (only 56 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Leveraged Sector Fund Momentum Strategy

A subscriber suggested applying simple momentum trading strategies to a set of leveraged equity style (size, value-growth) funds. It seems plausible that leverage may make funds react quickly and strongly to business cycle shifts that affect style performance. However, the costs of maintaining leverage are countervailing. Historical data for leveraged style funds is very limited, so we test instead a set of seven ProFunds 1.5X leveraged sector mutual funds, all of which have trading data back at least as far as December 2000:

ProFunds UltraSector Oil & Gas Inv (ENPIX)
ProFunds UltraSector Financials Inv (FNPIX)
ProFunds UltraSector Health Care Inv (HCPIX)
ProFunds Real Estate UltraSector Inv (REPIX)
ProFunds Telecom UltraSector Inv (TCPIX)
ProFunds Technology UltraSector Inv (TEPIX)
ProFunds Utilities UltraSector Inv (UTPIX)

As in “Simple Sector ETF Momentum Strategy Performance” and “Doing Momentum with Style (ETFs)”, we consider a basic momentum strategy that allocates all funds at the end of each month to the mutual fund with the highest total return over the past six months (6-1). We also consider a more cautious strategy that allocates all funds at the end of each month either to the mutual fund with the highest total return over the past six months or to cash depending on whether the S&P 500 Index is above or below its 10-month simple moving average (6-1;SMA10). Using monthly adjusted closing prices for the seven leveraged sector funds, the S&P 500 index, 3-month Treasury bills (T-bills) and S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) over the period December 2000 through November 2011 (132 months), we find that: Keep Reading

The 2000s: A Market Timer’s Decade?

Do the poor returns and high volatility of the “buy-and-hold-is-dead” U.S. stock market since the beginning of 2000 represent a tailwind for market timers? In other words, is buy-and-hold effective as a benchmark for distinguishing between market timer luck and skill in recent years? To check, we measure the performances of various simple monthly market timing approaches (equal weighting with cash, 10-month simple moving average signals, momentum, and coin-flipping) during the 2000s. Using monthly closes for the dividend-adjusted S&P 500 Depository Receipts (SPY), the 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yield and the S&P 500 Index from December 1999 through October 2011 (earlier for S&P 500 Index signal calculations), we find that: Keep Reading

Momentum Echo Outside the U.S.?

Research on the U.S. equity market indicates that “old” or intermediate momentum (12 months ago to 7 months ago) is much more important than “new” or recent momentum (6 months ago to two months ago, incorporating a skip-month to avoid short-term reversal) in predicting future stock returns. Do other equity markets confirm this finding? In their September 2011 preliminary paper entitled “Is Momentum an Echo?”, Amit Goyal and Sunil Wahal investigate whether other country equity markets behave similarly. Using regressions, single-sorts on past stock returns and double-sorts on intermediate and recent past stock returns, along with country-specific risk factors (market, size, book-to-market), for 36 non-U.S. country equity markets during 1991 through 2009, they find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on What Works on Wall Street

James O’Shaughnessy (Chairman and CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management) introduces his 2011 book, What Works on Wall Street (Fourth Edition): the Classic Guide to the Best-Performing Investment Strategies of All Time, by stating: “…investors seem programmed by nature to fail at investing, forever chasing the asset class that has turned in the best performance recently and heavily discounting anything that occurred more than three to five years ago. The whole purpose of What Works on Wall Street is to dissuade investors from that course of action. Only the fullness of time shows which investment strategies are the best long-term performers, and this is doubly true after the last decade’s sorry performance. …We will make the case that equities–particularly those selected using the best long-term strategies–will go on to be the best performing assets over the next 10 and 20 years. …The fourth edition of What Works on Wall Street continues to offer readers access to long-term studies of Wall Street’s most effective investment strategies.” He uses overlapping portfolios formed monthly and rebalanced annually for all tests. Using broad sets of data on U.S. firms/stocks from either 1963 or 1926 through 2009 to extend and expand his prior quantitative analyses, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Asset Class Momentum Strategy

Do asset classes consistently exhibit momentum over the same time frame as stocks? In his January 2006 investing policy entitled “Class OutPerformance (COP) Strategy”, Mal Williams describes a dynamic asset allocation strategy based on intermediate-term total return momentum of fund proxies (a complex calculation spanning the past 12 months, but not simply the 12-month return) for a wide range of asset classes. Implementation involves investing each month in the 10 to 15 best-performing funds out of a universe of 80 funds. In an October 2011 update of strategy tests, he selects the eight best-performing asset class proxies (heavily overweighting returns from the last three months) out of 51 possible as long as their performance is better than cash, in which case he allocates to the money market. He considers two implementation scenarios: (1) reallocate at the monthly open immediately after the fund ranking interval (for which there may be data availability issues); and, reallocate in the middle of the month after the ranking interval. Using monthly returns and semi-monthly prices for the 51 asset class proxy funds the period January 1991 through September 2011, along with contemporaneous money market yields, he finds that: Keep Reading

Momentum Not Working?

Is momentum on a losing streak? Or, has proliferation of momentum strategies extinguished the anomaly? In the October 2010 revision of his paper entitled “Are Momentum Strategies Still Profitable for U.S. Equity?”, Scott Wilson examines the recent performance of a momentum hedge strategy that each month buys (sells) the tenth of stocks with the highest (lowest) lagged six-month returns. He employs (overlapping) six-month holding intervals and focuses on equal weighting of stocks at formation. Using monthly data for stocks traded on the NYSE, AMEX and NASDAQ, excluding the tenth with the smallest market capitalizations and those priced below $5, during 1965 through 2009, he finds that: Keep Reading

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