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Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2022 (Final)
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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.

SACEMS Optimal Lookback Interval Stability

A subscriber asked about the stability of the momentum measurement (lookback) interval used for strategies like the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS). To investigate, we run two tests on each of top one (Top 1),  equal-weighted top two (EW Top 2) and equal-weighted top three (EW Top 3) versions of SACEMS:

  1. Identify the SACEMS lookback interval with the highest gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) for a sample starting February 2006 when Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking Fund (DBC) becomes available and ending each of May 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021. We consider lookback intervals of one to 12 months, meaning that earliest allocations are for February 2007 to accommodate the longest interval. The shortest sample period is therefore 5.3 years. This test takes the perspective of an investor who devises SACEMS in May 2012 and each year adds 12 months of data and checks whether the optimal lookback interval has changed.
  2. Identify the SACEMS lookback interval with the highest gross CAGR for a sample ending May 2021 and starting each of February 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016. The shortest sample period is again 5.3 years. This test takes perspectives of different investors who devise SACEMS at the end of February in different years.

Using monthly SACEMS inputs and the SACEMS model as currently specified for February 2006 through May 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Factor Crowding in Commodity Futures

Can investors detect when commodity futures momentum, value and carry (basis) strategies are crowded and therefore likely to generate relatively weak returns? In the March 2021 version of their paper entitled “Crowding and Factor Returns”, Wenjin Kang, Geert Rouwenhorst and Ke Tang examine how crowding by commodity futures traders affects expected returns for momentum, value and basis strategies. They define commodity-level crowding based on excess speculative pressure, measured for each commodity as the deviation of non-commercial trader net position (long minus short) from its 3-year average, scaled by open interest. They calculate crowding for a long-short strategy portfolio as the average of commodity-level crowding metrics of long positions minus the average of commodity-level crowding metrics for short positions, divided by two. They specify strategy portfolios as follows:

  • Momentum – each week long (short) the equally weighted 13 commodities with the highest (lowest) past 1-year returns as of the prior week.
  • Value – each week long (short) the equally weighted 13 commodities with the highest (lowest) ratios of last-week nearest futures price to nearest futures price three years ago.
  • Basis – each week long (short) the equally weighted 13 commodities with the highest (lowest) basis, measured as percentage price difference between nearest and next maturity contracts as of the prior week.

For each strategy, they measure effects of crowding by measuring returns separately when strategy crowding is above or below its rolling 3-year average. Using weekly (Tuesday close) investor position data published by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) for 26 commodities traded on North American exchanges during January 1993 through December 2019, they find that:

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SACEMS Applied to Mutual Funds

A subscriber inquired whether a longer test of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) is feasible using mutual funds rather than exchange-traded funds (ETF) as asset class proxies. To investigate, we consider the following set of mutual funds (partly adapted from the paper summarized in “Asset Allocation Combining Momentum, Volatility, Correlation and Crash Protection”):

  1. Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Investor Shares (VTSMX)
  2. Vanguard Small Capitalization Index Investor Shares  (NAESX)
  3. Fidelity Diversified International (FDIVX)
  4. Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Investor Shares (VUSTX)
  5. Fidelity New Markets Income Fund (FNMIX)
  6. Vanguard REIT Index Investor Shares (VGSIX)
  7. First Eagle Gold A (SGGDX)
  8. Oppenheimer Commodity Strategy Total Return A (QRAAX) until in October 2011, and BlackRock Commodity Strategies Portfolio Institutional Shares (BICSX) thereafter
  9. 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (Cash)

We rank mutual funds based on total (dividend-adjusted) returns over past (lookback) intervals of one to 12 months. We consider portfolios of past mutual fund winners based on Top 1 and on equally weighted (EW) Top 2 through Top 5. We consider as benchmarks: an equally weighted portfolio of all mutual funds, rebalanced monthly (EW All); buying and holding VTSMX; and, holding VTSMX when the S&P 500 Index is above its 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) and Cash when the index is below its SMA10 (VTSMX:SMA10). Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above mutual funds and the yield for Cash during March 1997 through April 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

SPY-TLT Allocation Momentum?

A subscriber suggested review of the “SPY-TLT Universal Investment Strategy”, which each day allocates 100% of funds to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and/or iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) with SPY-TLT allocations equal to that with the best risk-adjusted daily performance over the past few months. There are 11 SPY-TLT allocation percentage choices: 100-0, 90-10, 80-20, 70-30, 60-40, 50-50, 40-60, 30-70, 20-80, 10-90 and 0-100. We test a simplified version of the strategy as follows:

  1. Each trading day, calculate dividend-adjusted close-to-close SPY and TLT returns.
  2. As soon as enough days are available, calculate the ratio of average daily return to standard deviation of daily returns over the past 63 trading days (about three months) for each of the 11 allocation choices. This lookback interval is common for such analyses and is within the lookback interval range of 50-80 days suggested by the author.
  3. For each day thereafter, maintain a portfolio with SPY-TLT allocations equal to those of the winning allocation choice over the specified lookback interval. We consider both same-close (requiring slight anticipation of the winning allocation choice) and next-open rebalancing executions (because such anticipation appears problematic).

We ignore small rebalancing frictions incurred daily when the allocation does not change. We initially ignore rebalancing frictions when the allocation does change, but then perform a frictions sensitivity test. Using daily dividend-adjusted opening and closing prices for SPY and TLT during July 30, 2002 (limited by TLT) through April 20, 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Stock Factor/Anomaly Momentum

Do published stock factors exhibit performance streaks exploitable via intrinsic (absolute, or time series) and relative (cross-sectional) momentum? In the March 2021 revision of their paper entitled “Factor Momentum and the Momentum Factor”, Sina Ehsani and Juhani Linnainmaa investigate stock factor portfolio monthly time series and cross-sectional momentum. They consider 15 factors for U.S. stocks (size, value, profitability, investment, momentum, accruals, betting against beta, cash flow-to-price, earnings-to-price, liquidity, long-term reversals, net share issuance, quality minus junk, residual variance and short-term reversals) and seven of these factors for global stocks. Each factor portfolio is long (short) stocks with higher (lower) expected returns based on that factor. They each month measure factor momentum as factor portfolio return from 12 months ago to one month ago. They consider six factor momentum strategies and one benchmark strategy that all exclude the stock momentum factor and are all rebalanced monthly and equal-weighted, as follows:

  • Time Series Winners –  long factor portfolios with positive momentum.
  • Time Series Losers – long factor portfolios with negative momentum.
  • Time Series Hedge– long Time Series Winners and short Time Series Losers.
  • Cross-sectional Winners –  long factor portfolios with above-median momentum.
  • Cross-sectional Losers – long factor portfolios with below-median momentum.
  • Cross-sectional Hedge – long Cross-sectional Winners and short Cross-sectional Losers.
  • Benchmark – long all factor portfolios.

Using monthly returns as available for the 15 U.S. stock anomalies since July 1963 and seven of these anomalies applied to global stocks since July 1990, all through December 2019 (mostly Kenneth French data), they find that: Keep Reading

Longer Test of Simplest Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy

A subscriber asked for an extended test of a very simple momentum strategy that each month holds Vanguard 500 Index Fund Investor Shares (VFINX) or Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Fund Investor Shares VUSTX according to which of these funds has the highest total return over the last three months. To investigate, based on the way mutual funds report prices, we calculate past 3-month total returns using dividend-adjusted prices for month-ends and strategy returns using dividend adjusted prices for first days of the following month. We assume zero fund switching costs and no restrictions on monthly fund switching. We use buying and holding VFINX as a benchmark. Using the specified fund price series and monthly 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield from the end of May 1986 (limited by VUSTX) through the beginning of March 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Recent Weaknesses of Factor Investing

How have value, quality, low-volatility and momentum equity factors, and combinations of these factors, performed in recent years. In their October 2020 paper entitled “Equity Factor Investing: Historical Perspective of Recent Performance”, Benoit Bellone, Thomas Heckel, François Soupé and Raul Leote de Carvalho review and put into context recent performances of these these factors/combinations as applied to medium-capitalization and large-capitalization World, U.S. and European stock universes. They consider both long-short and long-only factor portfolios and further investigate effects of (1) neutralizing beta and sector dependencies, (2) using multiple metrics for each factor and (3) including small stocks. Using firm accounting data and stock returns to support factor portfolio construction during 1995 through early 2020, they find that:

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Stock Option Momentum and Seasonality

Do options of individual stocks exhibit momentum and seasonality patterns? In their November 2020 paper entitled “Momentum, Reversal, and Seasonality in Option Returns”, Christopher Jones, Mehdi Khorram and Haitao Mo investigate momentum and seasonality effects for options on U.S. common stocks. They focus on performance of straddles, combining a put and a call with the same strike price and expiration date. They balance needs for liquidity and sample size by requiring positive open interest during the holding period but not the momentum calculation interval. Specifically, on each monthly option expiration date, they:

  1. Form two straddles from near-the-money options expiring next month for each for each stock: (1) the pair with call delta closest to 0.5 for calculating momentum; and, (2) the pair with call delta closest to 0.5 and with positive open interest for both the put and the call when selected for calculating momentum portfolio return.
  2. Construct from these pairs zero-delta straddles using bid-ask midpoints as prices and calculate monthly straddle excess returns relative to the 1-month Treasury bill yield. This process generates about 1,600 straddles per month with average monthly excess return -5.6% and very large standard deviations.
  3. Calculate momentum as average monthly excess return over a specified lookback interval (rather than cumulative return, to suppress effects of return outliers).
  4. Rank straddle returns into equal-weighted fifths (quintiles) based on momentum and calculate average return for each quintile and for a portfolio that is long the top quintile and short the bottom quintile.

Using end-of-day open interest and bid-ask quotes for call and put options on U.S. common stocks from OptionMetric and trading data for underlying stocks during January 1996 through June 2019, they find that: Keep Reading

Sector Breadth as Market Return Indicator

Does breadth of equity sector performance predict overall stock market return? To investigate, we relate next-month stock market return to sector breadth (number of sectors with positive past returns) over lookback intervals ranging from 1 to 12 months. We consider the following nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) offered as Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) to represent the overall stock market. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY and the sector ETFs during December 1998 through September 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Breaking Asset Ranking Systems into Pairs

Is there a better way to identify attractive and unattractive assets than simply ranking them? In the August 2020 version of their paper entitled “Decoding Systematic Relative Investing: A Pairs Approach”, Christian Goulding, Campbell Harvey and Alex Pickard examine a long-short strategy that periodically reforms a portfolio by evaluating all possible pairs within an asset universe based on:

  1. High positive signal-future return correlation for each asset on its own in a pair.
  2. Low (or negative) signal correlation between assets in the pair.
  3. Low (or negative) signal-future return correlations between one asset and the other in the pair.

They use these three inputs to calculate a (somewhat complex) composite score for each pair. Among pairs with the highest composite scores, the member with the higher (lower) signal goes to the long (short) side of the portfolio. They assess usefulness of the three conditions and the composite score using a momentum signal calculated as average past monthly return over a specified lookback interval minus its inception-to-date mean and divided by its inception-to-date standard deviation. They split their sample roughly in half and use the first half for detection of profitable pair strategies and the second half to measure out-of-sample performance. They further test an explicit tactical allocation strategy using a 12-month momentum lookback interval, a rolling 10-year monthly composite score and a scheme that weights the top four asset pairs according to respective composite scores. As a benchmark, they use a comparable conventional relative momentum strategy that simply ranks assets on momentum signal. Using monthly returns for 13 broad asset-class indexes encompassing equities, bonds, real estate investment trusts (REIT) and commodities (78 possible pairs) as available through May 2020, they find that:

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