Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2022 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for September 2022 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

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.

Are Equity Multifactor ETFs Working?

Are equity multifactor strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider seven ETFs, all currently available:

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the seven equity multifactor ETFs and benchmarks as available through August 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

O’Shaughnessy Micro Cap Strategy?

A subscriber, referring to a March 2016 commentary stating that “microcap stocks offer investors one of the best opportunities for consistent, long-term excess returns,” inquired about the performance of quality-value-momentum microcap strategy described therein. To assessment this strategy, we compare the self-reported annual performance of the O’Shaughnessy Micro Cap strategy (OSMC) as of June 2022 (now maintained by Franklin Templeton) to that of simply buying and holding SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY). Using annual self-reported OSMC net returns and matched dividend-adjusted SPY returns during August 2007 through June 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Do Equal Weight ETFs Beat Cap Weight Counterparts?

“Stock Size and Excess Stock Portfolio Growth” finds that an equal-weighted portfolio of the (each day) 1,000 largest U.S. stocks beats its market capitalization-weighted counterpart by about 2% per year. However, the underlying research does not account for portfolio rebalancing costs and may not be representative of other stock universes. Do exchange-traded funds (ETF) that implement equal weight for various U.S. stock indexes confirm findings? To investigate, we consider eight equal-weight ETFs, six alive and two dead:

We focus on average return, standard deviation of returns, reward/risk (average return divided by standard deviation of returns), compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD), all based on monthly data. Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for the 16 ETFs as available (limited by equal-weighted funds) through June 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Failure of Equity Multifactor Funds?

Multifactor funds offer rules-based, diversified exposures to firm/stock factors found to beat the market in academic studies. Do the funds beat the market in real life? In his June 2022 paper entitled “Multifactor Funds: An Early (Bearish) Assessment”, Javier Estrada assesses performance of such funds across U.S., global and emerging markets relative to that of corresponding broad capitalization-weighted indexes and associated exchange-traded funds (ETF). He focuses on multifactor funds with exposure to at least three factors that are explicitly marketed as multifactor funds. Using monthly total returns for 56 U.S.-based equity multifactor funds with at least three years of data and $10 million in assets from respective inceptions (earliest June 2014) through March 2022, and total returns for matched broad market indexes and ETFs, he finds that:

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Interaction of Long-only Value and Size

Does the finding from long-short factor analysis that the value premium is stronger among small stocks than large stocks hold for long-only value portfolios? In his April 2022 paper entitled “Long-Only Value Investing: Does Size Matter?”, Jack Vogel investigates interactions between the value premium and market capitalization for U.S. and international stocks. The steps in his main analysis are to each year on June 30:

  • Group the 3,000 largest U.S. stocks by market capitalization with non-zero market value of equity into the 1,000 largest firms (large-cap) and the 2,000 smallest (small-cap).
  • Rank each group into thirds (terciles), fifths (quintiles) or tenths (deciles) based on each of: (1) book-to-market ratio (B/M); (2) earnings-to-price ratio (E/P); (3) free cash flow-to-price ratio (FCF/P); (4) earnings before interest and taxes-to-total enterprise value ratio (EBIT/TEV); and, (5) the composite rank of these four ratios.
  • Measure average monthly returns over the next year of the top ranks based on either equal weights (EW) or value weights (VW).

Using the specified accounting data and stock prices for a broad sample of U.S. firms since July 1973 and for a comparable sample of international developed market firms since January 1994, all through December 2020, he finds that: Keep Reading

Alternative Proxy for Small Stocks in Measuring the Size Effect

In response to “Measuring the Size Effect with Capitalization-based ETFs” and in view of the research summarized in “Quality-enhanced Size Effect”, a subscriber suggested using either iShares Core S&P Small-Cap ETF (IJR) or Vanguard S&P Small-Cap 600 Index Fund (VIOO) in place of iShares Russell 2000 ETF (IWM) as a proxy for small stocks. The idea behind this substitution is that IJR and VIOO select profitable companies from the S&P 600, while many Russell 2000 stocks are unprofitable. We choose IJR based on its much longer history, the same length as that for IWM. We again use SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) as a proxy for large stocks. We restate results for IWM for comparison. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for IWM, IJR and SPY during May 2000 (limited by IWM and IJR) through March 2022, we find 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 look at 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 March 2022, we find that: Keep Reading

Ziemba Party Holding Presidency Strategy Update

“Exploiting the Presidential Cycle and Party in Power” summarizes strategies that hold small stocks (large stock or bonds) when Democrats (Republicans) hold the U.S. presidency. How has this strategy performed in recent years? To investigate, we consider three strategy alternatives using exchange-traded funds (ETF):

  1. D-IWM:R-SPY: hold iShares Russell 2000 (IWM) when Democrats hold the presidency and SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when Republicans hold it.
  2. D-IWM:R-LQD: hold IWM when Democrats hold the presidency and iShares iBoxx Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD) when Republicans hold it.
  3. D-IWM:R-IEF: hold IWM when Democrats hold the presidency and iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF) when Republicans hold it.

We use calendar years to determine party holding the presidency. As benchmarks, we consider buying and holding each of SPY, IWM, LQD or IEF and annually rebalanced portfolios of 60% SPY and 40% LQD (60 SPY-40 LQD) or 60% SPY and 40% IEF (60 SPY-40 IEF). We consider as performance metrics: average annual excess return (relative to the yield on 1-year U.S. Treasury notes at the beginning of each year); standard deviation of annual excess returns; annual Sharpe ratio; compound annual growth rate (CAGR); and, maximum annual drawdown (annual MaxDD). We assume portfolio switching/rebalancing frictions are negligible. Except for CAGR, computations are for full calendar years only. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the specified ETFs during July 2002 (limited by LQD and IEF) through December 2021, we find that:

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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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