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Size Effect

Do the stocks of small firms consistently outperform those of larger companies? If so, why, and can investors/traders exploit this tendency? These blog entries relate to the size effect.

Equity Factor Time Series Momentum

In their July 2019 paper entitled “Momentum-Managed Equity Factors”, Volker Flögel, Christian Schlag and Claudia Zunft test exploitation of positive first-order autocorrelation (time series, absolute or intrinsic momentum) in monthly excess returns of seven equity factor portfolios:

  1. Market (MKT).
  2. Size – small minus big market capitalizations (SMB).
  3. Value – high minus low book-to-market ratios (HML).
  4. Momentum – winners minus losers (WML)
  5. Investment – conservative minus aggressive (CMA).
  6. Operating profitability – robust minus weak (RMW).
  7. Volatility – stable minus volatile (SMV).

For factors 2-7, monthly returns derive from portfolios that are long (short) the value-weighted fifth of stocks with the highest (lowest) expected returns. In general, factor momentum timing means each month scaling investment in a factor from 0 to 1 according its how high its last-month excess return is relative to an inception-to-date window of past levels. They consider also two variations that smooth the simple timing signal to suppress the incremental trading that it drives. In assessing costs of this incremental trading, they assume (based on other papers) that realistic one-way trading frictions are in the range 0.1% to 0.5%. Using monthly data for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks during July 1963 through November 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Equal Weighting, Firm Age and Stock Returns

Does stock performance vary with age (since listing), and does any such effect interact with market capitalization (size)? In their April 2019 paper entitled “Age Matters”, Danqiao Guo, Phelim Boyle, Chengguo Weng and Tony Wirjanto examine age and size of U.S. stocks in combination. To disentangle interaction, they generate 20,000 simulations for each of two sets of portfolios separately for holdings of 5, 25, 50 or 100 stocks:

  1. Rebalanced – a randomly selected equal-weighted portfolio rebalanced each month to equal weight after replacing delisted stocks (roughly 10% of stocks each year) with replacements randomly selected from those in the full sample not already in the portfolio. New stocks are representative of the market in terms of age, while residual stocks age by a month, such that the portfolio tends to grow older.
  2. Bootstrapped – a randomly selected equal-weighted (also, for reference, value-weighted) portfolio that is each month liquidated and randomly reformed, such that it remains representative of the full sample in terms of age.

If stock return is related to age, these two sets of portfolios perform differently. They further compare performances of 16 portfolios double-sorted into four age groups (quartiles) and four size quartiles. Using monthly returns and listing dates for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during July 1926 through December 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Cryptocurrency Factor Model

Do simple factor models help explain future return variations across different cryptocurrencies, as they do for stocks? In their April 2019 paper entitled “Common Risk Factors in Cryptocurrency”, Yukun Liu, Aleh Tsyvinski and Xi Wu examine performances of cryptocurrency (coin) counterparts for 25 price-related and market-related stock market factors, broadly categorized as size, momentum, volume and volatility factors. They first construct a coin market index based on capitalization-weighted returns of all coins in their sample. They then each week sort coins into fifths based on each factor and calculate average excess return for a portfolio that is long (short) coins in the highest (lowest) quintile. Finally, they investigate whether any small group of factors accounts for returns of all significant factors. Using daily prices in U.S. dollars and non-return variables (excluding top and bottom 1% values as potential errors/outliers) for all coins with market capitalizations over $1 million dollars from Coinmarketcap.com during January 2014 through December 2018 (a total of 1,707 coins, growing from 109 in 2014 to 1,583 in 2018), they find that:

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ICO Performance Tendencies

Are Initial Coin Offerings (ICO), also called token sales or token offerings, typically good investments? ICOs are smart contracts on a blockchain (usually Ethereum) that enable firms to raise money directly from investors. The median time for listing a successful ICO on a token exchange is 42 days. In the May 2019 revision of his paper entitled “The Pricing and Performance of Cryptocurrency”, Paul Momtaz examines the performance of ICOs for horizons of one day to three years after initial listing. He also investigates whether there are robust predictors of initial pricing and longer term performance. His sample consists of all tokens tracked by coinmarketcap.com during January 2013 through April 2018, less confirmed errors and outliers in extreme 1% tails because they are unverifiable. His benchmark for calculating abnormal returns is the market capitalization-weighted return of cryptocurrencies (dominated by Bitcoin and Ethereum). Using daily high, low and closing prices, market capitalizations and trading volumes of 1,403 ICOs and daily closes of major cryptocurrencies during the specified period, he finds that: Keep Reading

Measuring the Size Effect with Capitalization-based ETFs

Do popular capitalization-based exchange-traded funds (ETF) offer a reliable way to exploit an equity size effect? To investigate, we compare the difference in returns (small minus big) between:

  • iShares Russell 2000 Index (Smallcap) Index (IWM), and
  • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for these ETFs during May 2000 (limited by IWM) through February 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Inflated Expectations of Factor Investing

How should investors feel about factor/multi-factor investing? In their February 2019 paper entitled “Alice’s Adventures in Factorland: Three Blunders That Plague Factor Investing”, Robert Arnott, Campbell Harvey, Vitali Kalesnik and Juhani Linnainmaa explore three critical failures of U.S. equity factor investing:

  1. Returns are far short of expectations due to overfitting and/or trade crowding.
  2. Drawdowns far exceed expectations.
  3. Diversification of factors occasionally disappears when correlations soar.

They focus on 15 factors most closely followed by investors: the market factor; a set of six factors from widely used academic multi-factor models (size, value, operating profitability, investment, momentum and low beta); and, a set of eight other popular factors (idiosyncratic volatility, short-term reversal, illiquidity, accruals, cash flow-to-price, earnings-to-price, long-term reversal and net share issuance). For some analyses they employ a broader set of 46 factors. They consider both long-term (July 1963-June 2018) and short-term (July 2003-June 2018) factor performances. Using returns for the specified factors during July 1963 through June 2018, they conclude that:

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Mutual Fund Exploitation of Equity Factor Premiums

How well do mutual funds exploit theoretical (academic) equity factor premiums, and how well do investors exploit such exploitation? In their January 2019 paper entitled “Factor Investing from Concept to Implementation”, Eduard Van Gelderen, Joop Huij and Georgi Kyosev examine: (1) how performances of mutual funds that target equity factor premiums (low beta, size, value, momentum, profitability, investment) compare to that of funds that do not; and, (2) flow-adjusted performances, indicating how much of any outperformance accrues to fund investors. They classify funds empirically based on factor exposures. Using monthly returns and total assets and quarterly turnover and expense ratios for 3,109 actively managed long-only U.S. equity mutual funds with assets over $5 million (1,334 dead and 1,775 live) since January 1990 and for 4,859 (2,000 dead and 2,859 live) similarly specified global mutual funds since January 1991, all through December 2015, along with contemporaneous monthly equity factor returnsthey find that: Keep Reading

Back Doors in Betting Against Beta?

Do unconventional portfolio construction techniques obscure how, and how well, betting against beta (BAB) works? In their November 2018 paper entitled “Betting Against Betting Against Beta”, Robert Novy-Marx and Mihail Velikov revisit the BAB factor, focusing on interpretation of three unconventional BAB construction techniques:

  1. Rank weighting of stocks – BAB employs rank weighting rather than equal or value weighting, with each stock in high and low estimated beta portfolios weighted proportionally to the difference between its estimated beta rank and the median rank.
  2. Hedging by leveraging – BAB seeks market neutrality by deleveraging (leveraging) the high (low) beta portfolio based on estimated betas rather than borrowing to buy the market portfolio to offset BAB’s short market tilt.
  3. Novel beta estimation – BAB measures stock betas by combining market correlations based on five years of overlapping 3-day returns with volatilities based on one year of daily returns, rather than using slope coefficients of daily stock returns versus daily market returns.

Based on mathematical analysis and empirical results using returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during January 1968 through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Does Active Stock Factor Timing/Tilting Work?

Does active stock factor exposure management boost overall portfolio performance? In their November 2018 paper entitled “Optimal Timing and Tilting of Equity Factors”, Hubert Dichtl, Wolfgang Drobetz, Harald Lohre, Carsten Rother and Patrick Vosskamp explore benefits for global stock portfolios of two types of active factor allocation:

  1. Factor timing – exploit factor premium time series predictability based on economic indicators and factor-specific technical indicators.
  2. Factor tilting – exploit cross-sectional (relative) attractiveness of factor premiums.

They consider 20 factors spanning value, momentum, quality and size. For each factor each month, they reform a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the equal-weighted fifth, or quintile, of stocks with the highest (lowest) expected returns for that factor. For implementation of factor timing, they consider: 14 economic indicators standardized by subtracting respective past averages and dividing by standard deviations; and, 16 technical indicators related to time series momentum, moving averages and volatilities. They suppress redundancy and noise in these indicators via principal component analysis separately for economic and technical groups, focusing on the first principal component of each group. They translate any predictive power embedded in principal components into optimal factor portfolio weights using augmented mean-variance optimization. For implementation of factor tilting, they overweight (underweight) factors that are relatively attractive (unattractive) based on valuations of factor top and bottom quintile stocks, top-bottom quintile factor variable spreads, prior-month factor returns (momentum) and volatilities of past monthly factor returns. Their benchmark portfolio is the equal-weighted combination of all factor hedge portfolios. For all portfolios, they assume: monthly portfolio reformation costs of 0.75% (1.15%) of turnover value for the long (short) side; and, annual 0.96% cost for an equity swap to ensure a balanced portfolio of factor portfolios. For monthly factor timing and tilting portfolios only, they assume an additional cost of 0.20% of associated turnover. Using monthly data for a broad sample of global stocks from major equity indexes and for specified economic indicators during January 1997 through December 2016 (4,500 stocks at the beginning and 5,000 stocks at the end), they find that: Keep Reading

U.S. Equity Turn-of-the-Month as a Diversifying Portfolio

Is the U.S. equity turn-of-the-month (TOTM) effect exploitable as a diversifier of other assets? In their October 2018 paper entitled “A Seasonality Factor in Asset Allocation”, Frank McGroarty, Emmanouil Platanakis, Athanasios Sakkas and Andrew Urquhart test U.S. asset allocation strategies that include a TOTM portfolio as an asset. The TOTM portfolio buys each stock at the open on the last trading day of each month and sells at the close on the third trading day of the following month, earning zero return the rest of the time. They consider four asset universes with and without the TOTM portfolio:

  1. A conventional stocks-bonds mix.
  2. The equity market portfolio.
  3. The equity market portfolio, a small size portfolio and a value portfolio.
  4. The equity market portfolio, a small size portfolio, a value portfolio and a momentum winners portfolio.

They consider six sophisticated asset allocation methods:

  1. Mean-variance optimization.
  2. Optimization with higher moments and Constant Relative Risk Aversion.
  3. Bayes-Stein shrinkage of estimated returns.
  4. Bayesian diffuse-prior.
  5. Black-Litterman.
  6. A combination of allocation methods.

They consider three risk aversion settings and either a 60-month or a 120-month lookback interval for input parameter measurement. To assess exploitability, they set trading frictions at 0.50% of traded value for equities and 0.17% for bonds. Using monthly data as specified above during July 1961 through December 2015, they find that:

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