Objective research to aid investing decisions

Value Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for July 2020 (Final)
Cash TLT LQD SPY

Momentum Investing Strategy (Strategy Overview)

Allocations for July 2020 (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.

Review of the Golden Butterfly Portfolio

A subscriber requested review of the Golden Butterfly (GB) portfolio, which assigns equal weights to the total stock market, small-capitalization value stocks, long-term government bonds, short-term government bonds and gold. To investigate, we use the following exchange-traded funds (ETF) as asset class proxies, respectively:

  • Vanguard Total Stock Market Index Fund (VTI)
  • iShares S&P Small-Cap 600 Value Fund (IJS)
  • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
  • iShares 1-3 Year Treasury Bond (SHY)
  • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)

We consider either monthly or annual rebalancings to equal weight, ignoring associated trading frictions. Using monthly dividend-adjusted prices for the five ETFs during November 2004 (limited by GLD) through April 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

SACEMS at Weekly and Biweekly Frequencies

A subscriber asked for an update on whether weekly or biweekly (every two weeks) measurement of asset class momentum works better than monthly measurement as used in “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS)” (SACEMS). Do higher measurement frequencies respond more efficiently to market turns? To investigate, we compare performances of strategies based on monthly, weekly and biweekly frequencies with comparable lookback intervals. For this comparison, we align weekly and biweekly results with monthly results, though they differ somewhat due to mismatches between ends of weeks and ends of months. We consider portfolios of past ETF winners based on Top 1 and on equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and Top 3. Using weekly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies per baseline SACEMS and the yield for Cash during February 2006  through April 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Multi-strategy Portfolio Design Approach

How should investors think about combining strategies into a broader portfolio that reliably exploits their interactions over time? In the March 2020 version of his paper entitled “Preferred Portfolios: An Improved Blueprint to Construct Multi Strategy Portfolios”, Lars Kestner discusses how to combine individual strategies into a portfolio that performs robustly out-of-sample base on five principles. His objective is to sift data with a systematic process, find small edges and fit them together into a reliable combination of return streams that in aggregate perform well under almost all market conditions. His process employs two sets of building blocks: (1) diverse quantitative strategies clustered into four categories; and, (2) nine asset markets/classes. Based on theoretical considerations and his experience as an investment manager, he concludes that:

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Federal Reserve Holdings and the U.S. Stock Market

Using quarterly data in their April 2013 preliminary paper entitled “Analyzing Federal Reserve Asset Purchases: From Whom Does the Fed Buy?” Seth Carpenter, Selva Demiralp, Jane Ihrig and Elizabeth Klee find that some categories of investors appear to sell U.S. Treasuries to the Federal Reserve and rebalance toward riskier assets (corporate bonds, commercial paper, and municipal debt). Are stocks a part of this process? To investigate, we relate weekly, monthly and quarterly U.S. stock market returns to changes in the Federal Reserve’s System Open Market Account (SOMA) holdings, comprised of U.S. Treasury bills, U.S. Treasury notes and bonds, U.S. Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIP) and Mortgage-Backed Securities (MBS). The Federal Reserve reports these holdings with a small lag. Using weekly (Wednesday close) dividend-adjusted prices for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as a stock market proxy and total SOMA holdings during early July 2003 through mid-April 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Review of Dual Momentum with Just Three Assets

A subscriber suggested review of “Accelerating Dual Momentum [ADM] Investing”, which allocates all funds to U.S. stocks, international (ex-U.S.) small-capitalization stocks or long-term U.S. Treasury bonds, as follows:

  1. Each month, calculate for each of the two equity assets the sum of its 1-month, 3-month and 6-month past returns.
  2. If both sums are negative, buy U.S. Treasury bonds.
  3. If both sums are not negative, buy the equity asset with the higher sum.

To investigate, we apply these rules to three exchange-traded funds (ETF):

  • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) to represent U.S. stocks.
  • iShares MSCI EAFE Small-Cap ETF (SCZ) to represent international small stocks.
  • iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) to represent long-term U.S. Treasury bonds.

Using end-of-month dividend-adjusted prices of these ETFs during December 2007 (limited by SCZ) through April 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Add Position Stop-gain to SACEMS?

Does adding a position take-profit (stop-gain) rule improve the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) by harvesting some upside volatility? SACEMS each months picks winners from among the a set of eight asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies plus cash based on past returns over a specified interval. To investigate the value of stop-gains, we augment SACEMS with a simple rule that: (1) exits to Cash from any current winner ETF when its intra-month return rises above a specified threshold; and, (2) re-sets positions per winners at the end of the month. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns and intra-month maximum returns for the specified assets during February 2006 through March 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Add Position Stop-loss to SACEMS?

Does adding a position stop-loss rule improve the performance of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy” (SACEMS) by avoiding some downside volatility? SACEMS each months picks winners from among the a set of eight asset class exchange-traded fund (ETF) proxies plus cash based on past returns over a specified interval. To investigate the value of stop-losses, we augment SACEMS with a simple rule that: (1) exits to Cash from any current winner ETF when its intra-month return falls below a specified threshold; and, (2) re-sets positions per winners at the end of the month. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics for the Top 1, equally weighted (EW) Top 2 and EW Top 3 portfolios of monthly winners. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns and intra-month drawdowns for the specified assets during February 2006 through March 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

SPY-TLT Allocation Momentum?

A subscriber suggested review of the “SPY-TLT Universal Investment Strategy”, which each day allocates 100% of funds to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) and/or iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT) with SPY-TLT allocations equal to that with the best risk-adjusted daily performance over the past few months. There are 11 SPY-TLT allocation percentage choices: 100-0, 90-10, 80-20, 70-30, 60-40, 50-50, 40-60, 30-70, 20-80, 10-90 and 0-100. We test a simplified version of the strategy as follows:

  1. Each trading day, calculate dividend-adjusted close-to-close SPY and TLT returns.
  2. As soon as enough days are available, calculate the ratio of average daily return to standard deviation of daily returns over the past 63 trading days (about three months) for each of the 11 allocation choices. This lookback interval is common for such analyses and is within the lookback interval range of 50-80 days suggested by the author.
  3. For each day thereafter, maintain a portfolio with SPY-TLT allocations equal to those of the winning allocation choice over the specified lookback interval. We consider both same-close (requiring slight anticipation of the winning allocation choice) and next-open rebalancing executions (because such anticipation appears problematic).

We ignore small rebalancing frictions incurred daily when the allocation does not change. We initially ignore rebalancing frictions when the allocation does change, but then perform a frictions sensitivity test. Using daily dividend-adjusted opening and closing prices for SPY and TLT during July 30, 2002 (limited by TLT) through April 9, 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Comparing Ivy 5 Allocation Strategy Variations

A subscriber requested comparison of four variations of an “Ivy 5” asset class allocation strategy, as follows:

  1. Ivy 5 EW: Assign equal weight (EW), meaning 20%, to each of the five positions and rebalance annually.
  2. Ivy 5 EW + SMA10: Same as Ivy 5 EW, but take to cash any position for which the asset is below its 10-month simple moving average (SMA10).
  3. Ivy 5 Volatility Cap: Allocate to each position a percentage up to 20% such that the position has an expected annualized volatility of no more than 10% based on daily volatility over the past month, recalculated monthly. If under 20%, allocate the balance of the position to cash.
  4. Ivy 5 Volatility Cap + SMA10: Same as Ivy 5 Volatility Cap, but take completely to cash any position for which the asset is below its SMA10.

To perform the tests, we employ the following five asset class proxies:

iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

We consider monthly performance statistics, annual performance statistics, and full-sample compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD). Annual Sharpe ratio uses average monthly yield on 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) as the risk-free rate. The DBC series in combination with the SMA10 rule are limiting with respect to sample start date and the first return calculations. Using daily and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the five asset class proxies and T-bill yield as return on cash during February 2006 through March 2020, we find that:

Keep Reading

Testing Zweig’s Combined Super Model

A subscriber requested testing Martin Zweig’s Combined Super Model, which each month specifies an equity allocation based on a system that assigns up to eight points from his Monetary Model and 0 or 2 points from his Four Percent Model. We consider two versions of the Combined Super Model:

  1. Zweig-Cash – Allocate to Fidelity Fund (FFIDX) as equities, with the balance in cash earning the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield.
  2. Zweig-FGOVX – Allocate to FFIDX as equities, with the balance in Fidelity Government Income Fund (FGOVX)

The benchmark is buying and holding FFIDX. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratio, with average monthly T-bill yield during a year as the risk-free rate for that year. We ignore impediments to mutual fund trading and any issues regarding timeliness of allocation changes for end-of-month rebalancing. Using monthly Combined Super Model allocations and monthly fund returns/T-bill yield during December 1986 through March 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

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