Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for April 2021 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for April 2021 (Final)
1st ETF 2nd ETF 3rd ETF

Strategic Allocation

Is there a best way to select and weight asset classes for long-term diversification benefits? These blog entries address this strategic allocation question.

Retirement Income Planning Model

How should financial advisers and investors approach retirement income planning? In their January 2021 paper entitled “A Model Approach to Selecting a Personalized Retirement Income Strategy”, Alejandro Murguia and Wade Pfau design and validate a questionnaire designed to quantify retirement income styles based on six preference scales:

  1. Probability-based vs. Safety First (main) – depending on market growth vs. contractually promised.
  2. Optionality vs. Commitment (main) – flexibility to respond to changing economic conditions/personal situation vs. fixed commitment.
  3. Time-based vs. Perpetuity (secondary) – fixed horizon vs. indefinite retirement income.
  4. Accumulation vs. Distribution (secondary) – portfolio growth vs. predictable income during retirement.
  5. Front-loading vs. Back-loading (secondary) – higher income distributions during early retirement vs. consistent life-style throughout.
  6. True vs. Technical Liquidity (secondary) – earmarked reserves/buffers vs. reserves taken from other goals.

The output is the Retirement Income Style Awareness (RISA)™ Profile. They then link profile types to four main retirement income strategies:

  1. Systematic withdrawals with total return (conventional portfolio) investing.
  2. Risk wrap with deferred annuities.
  3. Protected income with immediate annuities.
  4. Time segmentation or bucketing.

Based on the body of retirement investment research and survey feedback from 1,478 readers of RetirementResearcher.com, they conclude that: Keep Reading

U.S. Federal Taxes and SACEVS, SACEMS

A subscriber requested an assessment of U.S. federal capital gains tax impacts on  the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS), the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and combinations of the two for investors with taxable accounts. Modeling such impacts is difficult due to complexity of the tax code and its highly idiosyncratic effects across individual taxpayers. To get a rough idea of federal tax impacts, we use annual (calendar year) data and make the following (close to worst case for SACEVS and SACEMS) simplifying assumptions:

  • Federal taxes (income and capital gain) are per 2020 brackets.
  • All SACEVS/SACEMS gains are short-term, treated as income at the marginal rate (some years not true for SACEVS, especially Best Value; generally true for SACEMS).
  • All taxes for SACEVS and SACEMS are at marginal rates, debited annually, with losses carried forward and offsetting future gains until exhausted.
  • Benchmarks are (1) buying and holding SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and (2) a monthly rebalanced 60% SPY, 40% iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) portfolio. Benchmarks are essentially buy-and-hold, the latter because monthly deviations from target allocations are usually modest, with long-term capital gain tax debited only at the end of the sample period.

We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as essential performance metrics. Using annual gross returns for SACEVS and the two benchmarks since 2003 and for SACEMS and SACEVS/SACEMS combinations since 2007, all through 2020, we find that:

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SACEMS, SACEVS and Trading Calendar Updates

We have updated monthly allocations and performance data for the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and the Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS). We have also updated performance data for the Combined Value-Momentum Strategy.

We have updated the Trading Calendar to incorporate data for March 2021.

Preliminary SACEMS and SACEVS Allocation Updates

The home page, Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) and Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) now show preliminary positions for April 2021. The top three SACEMS ETFs are unlikely to change by the close. SACEVS allocations may shift slightly with final data.

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

SACEVS with Margin

Is leveraging with margin a good way to boost the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS)? To investigate effects of margin, we augment SACEVS by: (1) initially applying 2X leverage via margin (limited by Federal Reserve Regulation T); (2) for each month with a positive portfolio return, adding margin at the end of the month to restore 2X leverage; and, (3) for each month with a negative portfolio return, liquidating shares at the end of the month to pay down margin and restore 2X leverage. Margin rebalancings are concurrent with portfolio reformations. We focus on gross monthly Sharpe ratiocompound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) for committed capital as key performance statistics for Best Value (which picks the most undervalued premium) and Weighted (which weights all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation) variations of SACEVS. We use the 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate and consider a range of margin interest rates as increments to this yield. Using monthly total returns for SACEVS and monthly T-bill yields during July 2002 through February 2021, we find that:

Keep Reading

SACEMS with Margin

Is leveraging with margin a good way to boost the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS)? To investigate effects of margin, we augment SACEMS by: (1) initially applying 2X leverage via margin (limited by Federal Reserve Regulation T); (2) for each month with a positive portfolio return, adding margin at the end of the month to restore 2X leverage; and, (3) for each month with a negative portfolio return, liquidating shares at the end of the month to pay down margin and restore 2X leverage. Margin rebalancings are concurrent with portfolio reformations. We focus on gross monthly Sharpe ratiocompound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) for committed capital as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. We use the 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate and consider a range of margin interest rates as increments to this yield. Using monthly gross total returns for SACEMS and monthly T-bill yields during July 2006 through February 2021, we find that:

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Update of a Lumber/Gold Risk-on/Risk-off Strategy

A subscriber asked for a performance comparison between 50% Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy (SACEVS) Best Value-50% Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS) equal-weighted top two (EW Top 2), rebalanced monthly (SACEVS-SACEMS 50-50), and a strategy that is each week in stocks or bonds according to whether the return on lumber is greater than the return on gold over the past 13 weeks (L-G Strategy). To test the latter strategy we use the following exchanged-traded fund (ETF) proxies:

Using weekly dividend-adjusted prices for SPY, TLT, CUT and GLD during early February 2008 (limited by inception of CUT) through early February 2021 and roughly matched start and stop performance for monthly SACEVS-SACEMS 50-50 , we find that:

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Ascendance of Automated ETF Allocation Models

Investors seeking low-cost, automated, tax-efficient and potentially alpha-generating solutions increasingly follow model portfolios of exchange-traded funds (ETF). Is there a top-down way to characterize those models? In their November 2020 paper entitled “Using Data Science to Identify ETF Model Followers”, Ananth Madhavan and Aleksander Sobczyk apply machine learning methods and cluster analysis to identify all models using at least three iShares ETFs based on monthly holdings data. Using monthly data on positions and accounts holding those positions across all iShares ETFs (370 at the end of the sample period) during January 2013 through June 2020, they find that:

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Diversifying across Growth/Inflation States of the Economy

Can diversification across economic states improve portfolio performance? In their November 2020 paper entitled “Investing Through a Macro Factor Lens”, Harald Lohre, Robert Hixon, Jay Raol, Alexander Swade, Hua Tao and Scott Wolle study interactions between three economic “factors” (growth, defensive/U.S. Treasuries and inflation) and portfolio building blocks (asset classes and conventional factor portfolios). Their proxies for economic factors are: broad equity market for growth; U.S. Treasuries for defensive; and, spread between inflation-linked bonds and U.S. Treasuries for inflation. To diversify across economic states, they calculate historical performance of each portfolio building block during each of four economic regimes: (1) rising growth and rising inflation; (2) rising growth and falling inflation; (3) falling growth and rising inflation; and, (4) falling growth and falling inflation. They then look at benefits of adding defensive and inflation economic factor overlays to a classis 60%/40% global equities/bonds portfolio. Using monthly economic factor data and asset class/conventional factor portfolio returns during February 2001 through May 2020, they find that: Keep Reading

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