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Are Equity Multifactor ETFs Working?

| | Posted in: Equity Premium, Momentum Investing, Size Effect, Value Premium, Volatility Effects

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

  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor USA (LRGF) - holds large and mid-cap U.S. stocks with focus on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor International (INTF) - holds global developed market ex U.S. large and mid-cap stocks based on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity (GSLC) - holds large U.S. stocks based on good value, strong momentum, high quality and low volatility.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Large Cap (JHML) - holds large U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Mid Cap (JHMM) - holds mid-cap U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • JPMorgan Diversified Return U.S. Equity (JPUS) - holds U.S. stocks based on value, quality and momentum via a risk-weighting process that lowers exposure to historically volatile sectors and stocks.
  • Xtrackers Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor (DEUS) - seeks to track, before fees and expenses, the Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor Index, which seeks exposure to quality, value, momentum, low volatility and size factors.

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). We use four benchmarks according to fund descriptions: SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), iShares MSCI ACWI ex US (ACWX), SPDR S&P MidCap 400 (MDY) and iShares Russell 1000 (IWB). Using monthly returns for the seven equity multifactor ETFs and benchmarks as available through August 2020, we find that:

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