Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for March 2021 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for March 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.

Update SACEVS Monthly Instead of Quarterly?

“Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS) tests a simple relative value strategy that each quarter allocates funds to one or more of the following three asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus cash, based on degree of undervaluation of measures of the term risk, credit risk and equity risk premiums:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

One version of SACEVS (Best Value) picks the most undervalued premium. Another (Weighted) weights all undervalued premiums according to degree of undervaluation. Premium calculations and SACEVS portfolio allocations are quarterly per the arrival rate of new corporate earnings information. The principal benchmark is a quarterly rebalanced portfolio of 60% SPY and 40% IEF. A subscriber asked whether monthly SACEVS updates outperform quarterly updates. Using monthly S&P 500 Index levelsquarterly S&P 500 earnings and monthly average yields for 3-month Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills), 10-year Constant Maturity U.S. Treasury notes (T-notes) and Moody’s Seasoned Baa Corporate Bonds during March 1989 through March 2015 (limited by availability of earnings data), and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the above three asset class ETFs during September 2002 through March 2015 (154 months, limited by availability of IEF and LQD), we find that: Keep Reading

Momentum in a Mean-variance Optimization Framework

Is intermediate-term asset class momentum a useful way to generate inputs (return, volatility and correlation forecasts) for a multi-class mean-variance optimization strategy? In their May 2015 paper entitled “Momentum and Markowitz: a Golden Combination”, Wouter Keller, Adam Butler and Ilya Kipnis test the effectiveness of using intermediate-term lookback intervals (1 to 12 months) to generate monthly long-only mean-variance optimized portfolios. They argue that such lookback intervals are more likely than conventional long (multi-year) intervals to provide forecasts that persist during one-month portfolio holding intervals. They name their approach Classical Asset Allocation (CAA). To test CAA, in addition to adopting the practical long-only constraint, they further:

  1. Select from the efficient frontier a target annualized portfolio volatility of either 10% (aggressive) or 5% (conservative).
  2. Forecast asset returns by averaging results from lookback intervals of 1, 3, 6 and 12 months.
  3. Forecast covariances (volatility-correlation relationships) from a 12-month lookback interval.
  4. Cap portfolio weights for risky assets at 25%, but do not cap weights for 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) and 10-year U.S. Treasury notes (T-notes).
  5. Consider three universes of 8, 16 and 39 asset class proxies.
  6. Use equal weighting (EW) of all assets in a universe as a benchmark.

They introduce an optimizer program to streamline calculation of optimal portfolio weights. Using monthly total returns for 39 indexes spanning multiple asset classes as available during January 1914 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy Robustness/Sensitivity Tests

How sensitive is the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” to selecting ranks other than winners and to choosing a momentum ranking interval other than five months? This strategy each month ranks the following eight asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus cash, on past return and rotates to the strongest class:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 1000 Index (IWB)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR Dow Jones REIT (RWR)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

Available data are so limited that sensitivity test results may mislead. With that reservation, we perform two robustness/sensitivity tests: (1) comparison of returns for all nine ranks of winner through loser based on a ranking interval of five months and a holding interval of one month (5-1); and, (2) comparison of winner returns for ranking intervals ranging from one to 12 months (1-1 through 12-1) and for a six-month lagged six-month ranking interval (12:7-1) per “Isolating the Decisive Momentum (Echo?)”, all with one-month holding intervals. Using monthly adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period July 2002 (or inception if not available then) through April 2014 (154 months), we find that: Keep Reading

Tactical U.S. Stock Market Allocations Based on Valuation Ratios

Do simple stock market valuation ratios work for tactical allocation? In his April 2015 paper entitled “Multiples, Forecasting, and Asset Allocation”, Javier Estrada investigates whether investors can outperform a 60-40 stocks-bonds benchmark portfolio via tactical strategies based on one of three simple stock market valuation ratios: (1) dividend-price ratio (D/P); (2) price-earnings ratio (P/E); or, (3) cyclically adjusted price-earnings ratio (CAPE, or P/E10). The valuation‐based strategies take aggressive (conservative) stances when stocks are cheap (expensive) via combinations of the following rules:

  • Designate stocks as cheap (expensive) when a valuation ratio is below (above) its inception-to-date mean by one standard deviation (1SD) or two standard deviations (2SD).
  • Use 60-40 stocks-bonds allocations when stocks are not cheap or expensive. When stocks are cheap (expensive), shift toward stocks (bonds) by 20% to 80-20 (40-60) or by 30% to 90-10 (30-70). 
  • Rebalance either annually or monthly.

For the benchmark portfolio and the valuation-based portfolios when in 60-40 stance, rebalancing occurs only when the stock allocation drifts below 55% or above 65%. To accrue at least 20 years of data for initial valuations, strategy performance measurements span 1920 through 2014 (95 years). Calculations lag dividends and earnings by three months to ensure real-time availability. Testing ignores trading frictions and tax implications. Using monthly S&P 500 Index total returns and the yield on 90-day U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) during September 1899 through December 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Timing of Asset Class Allocations by Multi-class Funds

Do multi-class mutual funds exhibit good asset class allocation timing? In their April 2015 paper entitled “Multi-Asset Class Mutual Funds: Can They Time the Market? Evidence from the US, UK and Canada”, Andrew Clare, Niall O’Sullivan, Meadhbh Sherman and Steve Thomas investigate whether mutual fund managers time allocations across asset classes skillfully. They focus on three asset classes: equities, government bonds and corporate bonds. They apply two alternative methodologies: (1) returns-based, relating each asset class beta for a fund to next-month return for that class; and, (2) holdings-based, relating changes in asset class weights within a fund to next-month class returns. Using monthly returns and holdings for 617 U.S., UK and Canadian multi-asset class mutual funds during 2000 through 2012, they find that:

Keep Reading

When and Why U.S. Mutual Fund Investors Reallocate

When and why do investors make changes in asset class allocations? In the March 2015 version of their paper entitled “Global Asset Allocation Shifts”, Tim Kroencke, Maik Schmeling and Andreas Schrimpf examine the asset reallocation decisions of U.S. mutual fund investors. They focus on shifts between U.S. equities and U.S. bonds (rotation) and between U.S. assets and non-U.S. assets (diversification). Specifically, they address: (1) principal factors explaining reallocations; (2) the link between monetary policy announcements and allocation shifts; and, (3) the search for bond yield and asset returns as drivers of allocation shifts. Using detailed U.S. mutual fund data on investor allocations to U.S. equities, non-U.S. equities and fixed income (comprising a total of about $6.6 trillion in assets) during January 2006 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Comparison of Variable Retirement Spending Strategies

Do variable retirement spending strategies offer greater utility than fixed-amount or fixed-percentage strategies? In his March 2015 paper entitled “Making Sense Out of Variable Spending Strategies for Retirees”, Wade Pfau compares via simulation ten retirement spending strategies based on a common set of assumptions. He classifies these strategies into two categories: (1) those based on decision rules (such as fixed real spending and fixed percentage spending); and, (2) actuarial models based on remaining portfolio balance and estimated remaining longevity. His bases comparisons on 10,000 Monte Carlo runs for each strategy. He assumes a retirement portfolio of 50% U.S. stocks and 50% U.S. government bonds with initial value $100,000, rebalanced annually after end-of-year 0.5% fees and beginning-of-year withdrawals. He calibrates initial spending where feasible by imposing a probability of X% (X=10) that real spending falls below $Y (Y=1,500) by year Z of retirement (Z=30). He treats terminal wealth as unintentional (in fact, undesirable), with the essential trade-off between spending more now and having to cut spending later. He ignores tax implications. Using historical return data from Robert Shiller and current levels of inflation and interest rates (see the chart below), he finds that: Keep Reading

A Few Notes on The 3% Signal

In the introduction to his 2015 book entitled The 3% Signal: The Investing Technique that Will Change Your Life, author Jason Kelly states: “Ideas count for nothing; opinions are distractions. The only thing that matters is the price of an investment and whether it’s below a level indicating a good time to buy or above a level indicating a good time to sell. We can know that level and monitor prices on our own, no experts required, and react appropriately to what prices and the level tell us. Even better, we can automate the reaction because it’s purely mathematical. This is the essence of the 3 percent signal [3Sig]. …Used with common market indexes, this simple plan beats the stock market. …The performance advantage of the 3 percent signal can be yours after just four fifteen-minute calculations per year…” Based on his experience and analyses, he concludes that: Keep Reading

Survey of Recent Research on Factors, Regimes and Robustness

Why and how should investors pursue investment premiums associated with factors that explain performance differences among related assets (like common stocks)? In the January 2015 version of his paper entitled “Better Investing Through Factors, Regimes and Sensitivity Analysis”, Cristian Homescu summarizes recent research on: (1) factor-based investing; (2) enhancement of factor-based investing via regime switching models; and, (3) strategy robustness testing. Factor investing means systematic targeting of premiums associated with factors that explain an exploitable portion of return and risk differences among securities within one or several asset classes. Based on recent streams of research, he concludes that:

Keep Reading

Reversal-enhanced Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy?

A subscriber hypothesized that combining short-term reversal with intermediate-term momentum would enhance momentum strategy performance. To investigate, we test a modification of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy”, which each month allocates all funds at the end of each month to the one of the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) or Cash with the highest total return over the past five months (Top 1):

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 1000 Index (IWB)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR Dow Jones REIT (RWR)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

The modification each month first identifies the top three ETFs or Cash based on past five-month returns and then picks the one of these three with the lowest return over the past five trading days (Top 3 Loser). This approach should pick intermediate-term winners that tend to benefit (or at least not suffer) from any reversal of short-term movements. Using daily and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and the yield for Cash during February 2006 (when all ETFs are first available) through February 2015 (109 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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