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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.

The 52-Week High as a Momentum Indicator for Individual Stocks

A reader notes and asks: “It is frequently said that stocks at 52-week highs are the most likely to outperform in the future. Is there any academic evidence to support this assertion?” In their October 2004 Journal of Finance article entitled “The 52-Week High and Momentum Investing”, Thomas George and Chuan-Yang Hwang examine the explanatory power of the 52-week high in the context of momentum investing. They compare the 52-week high as a momentum indicator to benchmark momentum strategies that employ six months of past returns to forecast six months of future returns. Using price data for a broad range of stocks over the period 1963-2001, they find that: Keep Reading

Loss of Momentum?

Has the focus of investors/traders (especially hedge funds) on stock return momentum, the persistence of outperformance and underperformance, killed the effect? In their March 2007 paper entitled “The Disappearance of Momentum”, Soosung Hwang and Alexandre Rubesam investigate trends in the momentum effect over a long period. Their baseline analysis examines sets of ten momentum-ranked portfolios formed on past five-month returns and held for six months, with an intervening month skipped. Using monthly return data for a large number of individual NYSE, AMEX and Nasdaq stocks over the period July 1926 through December 2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Follow the Leaders to Capture Short-term Abnormal Returns

Do investors/traders taking cues from the trades of top performers produce the momentum effect? In his December 2006 paper entitled “Follow the Leader: Peer Effects in Mutual Fund Portfolio Decisions”, Lukasz Pomorski investigates whether actively managed equity mutual funds tend to follow the stock trading leads of outperforming peers as the picks become known via the media and quarterly filings. He defines outperforming (leader) funds in two ways: (1) funds with alphas in the top 5% over the past two years, and (2) funds on the Forbes Honor Roll (high media exposure). He calculates overall leader activity in a stock based only on trades by leader funds with a position in the stock. Using mutual fund holdings and performance data for 1980-2003 (96 quarters), he finds that: Keep Reading

Selling Too Soon, and Holding on Hope?

Do investors really sell winners and hold losers, thereby helping the market beat them? In other words, are they reluctant to admit mistakes? In their November 2006 paper entitled “Is the Aggregate Investor Reluctant to Realize Losses? Evidence from Taiwan”, Brad Barber, Yi-Tsung Lee, Yu-Jane Liu and Terrance Odean investigate whether the average investor exhibits the disposition effect, the tendency to sell winning investments at a faster rate than losing investments. Using data for all trades on the Taiwan Stock Exchange during 1995-1999 (over one billion trades by nearly four million traders), they conclude that: Keep Reading

Momentum Strategies Sputtering?

How are momentum stock trading strategies doing these days? In their January 2006 paper entitled “The Vanishing Abnormal Returns of Momentum Strategies and ‘Front-running’ Momentum Strategies”, Thomas Henker, Martin Martens and Robert Huynh examine the returns of various momentum trading strategies in general and during specific market conditions (rising or falling) over the period 1993-2004. They construct a series of self-financing portfolios (equal-weighted) for various holding periods by buying past winners and selling past losers based on various past performance (ranking) periods. Some strategies include a one-month gap between the ranking and holding periods. They repeat portfolio construction monthly over the sample period for each strategy, resulting in overlapping portfolios. Finally, they test “front-running” strategies that set momentum rankings five days before the ends of months rather than at month-ends. Using daily data to calculate monthly returns for a broad sample of stocks (with all distributions reinvested), they find that: Keep Reading

Combining Momentum and Value for Industry Rotation

Value and momentum are two very different equity investing styles, both with many adherents. Neither outperforms the overall market all the time. Is there some systematic way of combining these two approaches to enhance consistency of outperformance in global equity markets? In their March 2006 paper entitled “Generating Excess Returns through Global Industry Rotation”, Geoffrey Loudon and John Okunev examine different investing styles (momentum, value, combination of value and momentum, and growth) to exploit cyclic industry returns, with the U.S. yield curve as the critical economic indicator. Using monthly global prices, dividends, earnings and returns data for 36 industries for 1973-2005, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Classic Research: Embrace Risk, But Take Profits

We have selected for retrospective review a few all-time “best selling” research papers of the past few years from the General Financial Markets category of the Social Science Research Network (SSRN). Here we summarize the February 1999 paper entitled “Daily Momentum And Contrarian Behavior Of Index Fund Investors” (download count almost 1,900) by William Goetzmann and Massimo Massa. The authors investigate the existence and profitability of momentum and contrarian behaviors for stock index trading. They classify return momentum investors (trend followers) as those who buy (sell) when the market rises (drops) in the previous trading session, and return contrarian investors as “profit takers” who sell (buy) when the market rises (drops). They also examine investor response to changes in market volatility, defining both volatility momentum traders (risk chasers) and volatility contrarian traders (risk avoiders). Using daily activity records for 91,000 accounts trading an S&P 500 index during 1997 and 1998, the authors find that: Keep Reading

Buying on Impulse (Change in Momentum)

In their September 2005 paper entitled “Acceleration Strategies”, Eric Gettleman and Joseph Marks examine the change in six-month stock price momentum (a second derivative of price with respect to time, which the authors call “acceleration”) for individual companies as a potential indicator of future performance. Does increasing (decreasing) stock price momentum indicate commensurate relative outperformance (underperformance)? Based on monthly data spanning 1926-2003, they conclude that: Keep Reading

The Disposition Effect as a Driver of Momentum

In the February 2005 update to his paper entitled “The Disposition Effect and Under-reaction to News”, Andrea Frazzini tests whether the “disposition effect” (the tendency of investors to sell stocks that have gone up, not down, in value since purchase) causes stock prices to under-react to bad news when most current holders face a capital loss and under-react to good news when most current holders face a capital gain. Using a database of the holdings of a large class of investors (mutual funds) to estimate reference prices for individual stocks, he ranks stocks according to unrealized capital gains/losses and correlates this ranking with response to corporate news and subsequent return. Based on data spanning 1980-2002, he finds that: Keep Reading

Momentum Investing: Surfing Waves in the Economy?

In their June 2005 paper entitled “Momentum Profits and Macroeconomic Risk”, Laura Liu, Jerold Warner and Lu Zhang examine the connection between momentum returns and the overall economy, using the growth rate of industrial production as a proxy for the economic trend. They use monthly data for a large selection of common stocks listed on the NYSE, AMEX, and NASDAQ from January 1960 to December 2001 to construct ten equally weighted momentum portfolios, ranking on past six-month returns and holding for six subsequent months. They find that: Keep Reading

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