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Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2022 (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.

Stock Factor Anomalies in Pre-1926 U.S. Data

Do widely accepted equity factor premiums exist in data older than generally employed in academic studies? In their November 2021 paper entitled “The Cross-Section of Stock Returns before 1926 (And Beyond)”, Guido Baltussen, Bart van Vliet and Pim van Vliet look for some of the most widely accepted factor premiums in a newly assembled sample of U.S. stocks spanning January 1866 through December 1926 (61 years of additional and independent data). Specifically, they look at: size as measured by market capitalization; value as measured by dividend yield (strongly associated with earnings during the sample period); stock price momentum from 12 months ago to one month ago; short-term (1-month) return reversal; and, risk as measured by market beta. They use only those stocks which trade frequently and apply liquidity/data quality filters. To measure factor premiums, they each month for each factor:

  • Regress next-month stock return versus stock factor value and compute slopes of the relationship.
  • Reform a value-weighted hedge portfolio that is long (short) stocks with high (low) expected returns based on factor values to measure: (1) average factor portfolio gross return; and, (2) gross factor (CAPM) alphas and betas based on regression of factor portfolio excess return versus market excess return.

They further investigate economic explanations of factor premiums and test machine learning methods found successful with recent data. Using monthly prices, dividends and market capitalizations for 1,488 stocks in the new database, they find that:

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Doing Momentum with Style (ETFs)

“Beat the Market with Hot-Anomaly Switching?” concludes that “a trader who periodically switches to the hottest known anomaly based on a rolling window of past performance may be able to beat the market. Anomalies appear to have their own kind of momentum.” Does momentum therefore work for style-based exchange-traded funds (ETF)? To investigate, we apply a simple momentum strategy to the following six ETFs that cut across market capitalization (large, medium and small) and value versus growth:

iShares Russell 1000 Value Index (IWD) – large capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 1000 Growth Index (IWF) – large capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Value Index (IWS) – mid-capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell Midcap Growth Index (IWP) – mid-capitalization growth stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Value Index (IWN) – small capitalization value stocks.
iShares Russell 2000 Growth Index (IWO) – small capitalization growth stocks.

We test a simple Top 1 strategy that allocates all funds each month to the one style ETF with the highest total return over a specified momentum ranking (lookback) interval. We focus on the baseline ranking interval from the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS), but test sensitivity of findings to ranking intervals ranging from one to 12 months. As benchmarks, we consider an equally weighted and monthly rebalanced combination of all six style ETFs (EW All), and buying and holding SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). As an enhancement we consider holding the Top 1 style ETF (3-month U.S. Treasury bills, T-bills) when the S&P 500 Index is above (below) its 10-month simple moving average at the end of the prior month (Top 1:SMA10), with a benchmark substituting SPY for Top 1 (SPY:SMA10). We employ the performance metrics used for SACEMS. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the six style ETFs and SPY, monthly levels of the S&P 500 Index and monthly yields for T-bills during August 2001 (limited by IWS and IWP) through October 2021, we find that:

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More International Equity Market Granularity for SACEMS?

A subscriber asked whether more granularity in international equity choices for the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS), such as considered by Decision Moose, would improve performance. To investigate, we augment/replace international developed and emerging equity market exchange-traded funds (ETF) such that the universe of assets becomes:

  • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
  • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
  • iShares Europe (IEV)
  • iShares MSCI Japan (EWJ)
  • iShares MSCI Pacific ex Japan (EPP)
  • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • iShares Latin America 40 (ILF)
  • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
  • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
  • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
  • PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
  • 3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

We compare original (SACEMS Base) and modified (SACEMS Granular), each month picking winners from their respective sets of ETFs based on total returns over a fixed lookback interval. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR), gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and gross annual Sharpe ratio (average annual excess return divided by standard deviation of annual excess returns, using average monthly T-bill yield during a year to calculate excess returns) as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. Using daily and monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during February 2006 through October 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Add Position Stop-gain to SACEMS?

Does adding a position take-profit (stop-gain) rule improve the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) by harvesting some upside volatility? SACEMS each months picks winners from among the a set of eight asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies plus cash based on past returns over a specified interval. To investigate the value of stop-gains, we augment SACEMS with a simple rule that: (1) exits to Cash from any current winner ETF when its intra-month return rises above a specified threshold; and, (2) re-sets positions per winners at the end of the month. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns and intra-month maximum returns for the specified assets during February 2006 through September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Add Position Stop-loss to SACEMS?

Does adding a position stop-loss rule improve the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) by avoiding some downside volatility? SACEMS each months picks winners from among the a set of eight asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies plus cash based on past returns over a specified interval. To investigate the value of stop-losses, we augment SACEMS with a simple rule that: (1) exits to Cash from any current winner ETF when its intra-month return falls below a specified threshold; and, (2) re-sets positions per winners at the end of the month. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns and intra-month drawdowns for the specified assets during February 2006 through September 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Understanding the Variation in Equity Factor Returns

What is the best way to understand and anticipate variations in equity factor returns? Past research emphasizes factor return connections to business cycle variables or measures of investor sentiment (with little success). In his September 2021 paper entitled “The Quant Cycle”, David Blitz analyzes factor returns themselves to understand their variations, arguing that behavioral rather than economic forces drive them. He determines the quant cycle (bull and bear trends in factor returns) by qualitatively identifying peaks and troughs. He focuses on U.S. versions of four conventionally defined long-short factors frequently targeted by investors (value, quality, momentum and low-risk), emphasizing the most volatile (value and momentum). He also considers some alternative factors. Using monthly data for factors from the online data libraries of Kenneth French, Robeco and AQR spanning July 1963 through December 2020 (and for a reduced set of factors spanning January 1929 through June 1963), he finds that:

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SACEMS with Different Alternatives for “Cash”

Do alternative “Cash” (deemed risk-free) instruments materially affect performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS)? Changing the proxy for Cash can affect how often the model selects Cash, as well as the return on Cash when selected. To investigate, we test separately each of the following yield and exchange-traded funds (ETF) as the risk-free asset:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash), a proxy for the money market as in base SACEMS
SPDR Bloomberg Barclays 1-3 Month T-Bill (BIL)
iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares TIPS Bond (TIP)

We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance metrics and consider Top 1, equally weighted (EW) EW Top 2 and EW Top 3 SACEMS portfolios. Using end-of-month total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during February 2006 (except May 2007 for BIL) through July 2021, we find that:

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Optimal Intrinsic Momentum and SMA Intervals Across Asset Classes

What are the optimal intrinsic/absolute/time series momentum (IM) and simple moving average (SMA) lookback intervals for different asset class proxies? To investigate, we use data for the following eight asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus Cash:

  • PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
  • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • 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)

For IM tests, we invest in each ETF (Cash) when its return over the past one to 12 months is positive (negative). For SMA tests, we invest in each ETF (Cash) when its price is above (below) its average monthly price at the ends of the last two to 12 months. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key metrics for comparing different IM and SMA lookback intervals since earliest ETF data availabilities based on the longest IM lookback interval. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period July 2002 (or inception if not available by then) through July 2021, we find that:

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Simplest Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy Update

A subscriber asked about an update of “Simplest Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy?”, which each month holds SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) or iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)  depending on which has the higher total return over the last three months, including a direct comparison to a portfolio that each month allocates 50% to Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) Best Value and 50% to Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) equal-weighted (EW) Top 2. We begin the test at the end of June 2006, limited by SACEMS inputs. We ignore monthly rebalancing frictions for both strategies. Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for SPY and TLT starting March 2006 and monthly gross returns for 50-50 SACEVS Best Value and SACEMS EW Top 2 starting July 2006 (limited by SACEMS inputs), all through July 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Momentum and Reversal Drivers for Large U.S. Stocks

What drives 12-month (with skip-month) momentum and 1-month reversal effects among U.S. common stock returns?  In their July 2021 paper entitled “Mapping out Momentum”, Yimou Li and David Turkington decompose momentum and reversal effects into distinct industry/sector, factor (size, value, profitability, investment) and stock-specific contributions. In addition to full-sample results, they look at:

  • High and low volatility states, as defined by a threshold of 25 for average daily CBOE Volatility Index (VIX) during the month of stock return measurement.
  • Contributions of past winners versus past losers.
  • Two subsamples with breakpoint December 2009.

They focus on S&P 500 stocks to avoid concerns that any anomalies are due to market frictions or are not exploitable on a large scale. They assume a 3-day implementation lag in computing next-month returns. They examine statistical significance (t-statistic) rather than magnitude of anomaly returns. Using S&P 500 stock, sector/industry and factor data and daily VIX levels during January 1995 through December 2020, they find that:

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