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Political Indicators

It is plausible that political winds might sway the economy and therefore financial markets. To what degree do politics matter for equity investors? Should they worry about the philosophy of the party in power or unusual market behavior relative to elections? Should they act on the prognostications of political experts? These blog entries address relationships between politics and the stock market.

Short-term Equity Risk More Political Than Economic?

How does news flow interact with short-term stock market return? In their April 2019 paper entitled “Forecasting the Equity Premium: Mind the News!”, Philipp Adämmer and Rainer Schüssler test the ability of a machine learning algorithm, the correlated topic model (CTM), to predict the monthly U.S. equity premium based on information in news articles. Their news inputs consist of about 700,000 articles from the New York Times and the Washington Post during June 1980 through December 2018, with early data used for learning and model calibration and data since January 1999 used for out-of-sample testing. They measure the U.S. stock market equity premium as S&P 500 Index return minus the risk-free rate. Specifically, they each month:

  1. Update news time series arbitrarily segmented into 100 topics (with robustness checks for 75, 125 and 150 topics).
  2. Execute a linear regression to predict the equity premium for each of the 100 topical news flows.
  3. Calculate an average prediction across the 100 regressions.
  4. Update a model (CTMSw) that switches between the best individual topic prediction and the average of 100 predictions, combining the flexibility of model selection with the robustness of model averaging.

They use the inception-to-date (expanding window) average historical equity premium as a benchmark. They include mean-variance optimal portfolio tests that each month allocate to the stock market and the risk-free rate based on either the news model or the historical average equity premium prediction, with the equity return variance computed from either 21-day rolling windows of daily returns or an expanding window of monthly returns. They constrain the equity allocation for this portfolio between 50% short and 150% long, with 0.5% trading frictions. Using the specified news inputs and monthly excess return for the S&P 500 Index during June 1980 through December 2018, they find that:

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Divided Government Risk Premium?

Do investors demand a risk premium for divided government because of the policy uncertainty of gridlock? In the April 2013 preliminary draft of their paper entitled “Divided Governments and Asset Prices”, Elvira Sojli and Wing Wah Tham„ investigate the effect of divided government on asset prices by comparing U.S. stock market performance in years of divided and undivided government. They define divided government (in the U.S.) as one party holding the Presidency while the other controls one or both houses of Congress. To isolate the effects of divided government, they account for the states of four variables widely used to predict stock market returns: dividend-price ratio; credit default spread, the difference between BAA and AAA corporate bond yields; term spread, the difference between 10-year U.S. Treasury note and 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yields; and, deviation of the 3-month T-bill yield from its one-year moving average. To determine causality, they investigate stock market futures reactions to betting market predictions of divided versus undivided government during four election nights. Using monthly U.S. stock market returns, data for the four stock return predictors and U.S. Treasury bill yields during 1926 through 2011 (encompassing 43 elections resulting in 23 undivided and 20 divided governments), and high-frequency election outcome betting data (from Intrade) and U.S. stock market futures on biennial election nights during 2004 through 2010, they find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Trade the Congressional Effect

Eric Singer, manager of the Congressional Effect Fund (CEFFX), introduces his 2012 book, Trade the Congressional Effect: How to Profit from Congress’s Impact on the Stock Market, by stating: “This book provides a new, empirically objective way to understand day by day what our government takes away from all of us. It shows in hard numbers what we lose out of our wallet when Congress acts. …this book suggests concrete investing strategies to make Congress’s systemic dysfunction work for you, and to hedge the risk and damage that Congress so casually and relentlessly inflicts on your life savings as represented by your portfolio and your house.” Using examples of legislative intervention and focusing on the daily level of the S&P 500 Index (capital gains only) during 1965 through 2011, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Any Investor Response to Presidential Polling Data?

Do U.S. stock market returns have any connection to presidential election polling data? In other words, do investors act on the survey-indicated election prospects for the two major party candidates? Presumably, investors would tend to enter (exit) stocks if they thought the candidate with policies more (less) favorable for equity valuation were gaining ground. Using daily releases of Gallup head-to-head polling data for the 2008 presidential election (Obama-McCain for March 11 through November 2) and the 2012 presidential election (Obama-Romney for April 15 through October 16) and contemporaneous daily closing levels of the S&P 500 index, we find that: Keep Reading

Election Season Stock Market VIX Drivers

Does political drama take over as the principal driver of U.S. stock market implied volatility during election seasons? In their March 2012 paper entitled “U.S. Presidential Elections and Implied Volatility: The Role of Political Uncertainty”, John Goodell and Sami Vähämaa compare the effects of political uncertainty to those of eight other sources of uncertainty on implied stock market volatility (as measured by VIX) during U.S. presidential election campaigns. They define the quadrennial campaign interval as the time from the beginning of February to the beginning of November of election years. They consider two measures of political uncertainty derived from the Iowa Electronic Markets: monthly change in probability of success of the eventual winner; and, monthly change in a measure of how close the race is. They also consider eight competing financial and economic sources of uncertainty as listed below. Using monthly data for these ten variables during the presidential election campaigns of 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004 and 2008 (40 total monthly observations), they find that: Keep Reading

War and Stock Market Returns

Do equity markets respond predictably to the probability and fact of war? In their May 2011 paper entitled “The War Puzzle: Contradictory Effects of International Conflicts on Stock Markets”, Amelie Brune, Thorsten Hens, Marc Rieger and Mei Wang relate U.S. stock market returns to the estimated likelihood of war involving the U.S. as evidenced by analysis of news (key word counts in the New York Times, with one of the key words being “war”). They consider the six wars most costly to the U.S. since World War II (World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq War and Afghanistan War). They distinguish between wars that have obvious preludes and wars that surprise (with the Korean War the paradigm for the latter). Based on availability of multiple measures of probability of war, they use the onset of the Iraq War during late 2002 through early 2003 to benchmark the stocks-war relationship. Using New York Times news reports during the selected wars and contemporaneous levels of the S&P 500 Index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average, they find that: Keep Reading

Exploiting the Presidential Cycle and Party in Power

Are there reliable ways to exploit differences in asset class returns under Democratic and Republican U.S. presidents? In his April 2011 paper entitled “Is the 60-40 Stock-Bond Pension Fund Rule Wise?”, William Ziemba examines relationships between the U.S. presidential election cycle and long-run returns for several asset classes. Specifically, he investigates the differential performance of large capitalization stocks, small capitalization stocks and bonds when Democrats and Republicans hold the presidency. Using annual asset class return data for 1998 through 2010 to extend prior calculations for 1937-1997 and 1942-1997, he finds that: Keep Reading

Party Composition in Congress and Stock Returns

The U.S. Democratic and Republican political parties arguably exhibit persistently different policy inclinations that affect the aggregate performance of public companies and therefore the U.S. stock market. “Party in Power and Stock Returns” investigates annual stock returns for different combinations of the party in control of the the Presidency, the House of Representatives and the Senate on a binary basis (Democrat or Republican). Do future stock market returns vary systematically with party composition and change in party composition of Congress? To investigate, we relate Republican composition of the House and Senate and prior session-to-session change in Republican composition to U.S. stock market returns during the session. Using party representation in Congress and stock index data for the Shiller data set since 1871, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) since 1929 and the S&P 500 Index since 1951, we find that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on Capital Rising

In their June 2010 book Capital Rising: How Capital Flows Are change Business Systems All Over the World, authors Peter Cohan and Srinivasa Rangan mine lessons from 47 case studies to “describe the phenomenon of capital flows, present new ways to think about what causes them to rise and fall, and describe ways that our readers can profit from this framework.” Specifically, in Chapter 7 (“Implications for Capital Providers”) they argue “that analyzing a country’s EE [Entrepreneurial Ecosystem] is essential for capital providers to maximize investment returns” and provide a six-step methodology to “help capital providers to sniff out the best opportunities…” The six steps are: Keep Reading

How Rigorous is the Stock Trader’s Almanac?

A reader asked: “I am curious how reliable some of the factors referenced in the Stock Trader’s Almanac are, but I see no reference to it on your site. Could you review the book and/or the primary strategies in the book? I would be curious to have your perspective on how rigorous its analysis is.” Keep Reading

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