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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.

Cryptocurrencies vs. Other Asset Classes

Are cryptocurrencies potentially useful portfolio diversifiers? In their November 2017 paper entitled “Exploring the Dynamic Relationships between Cryptocurrencies and Other Financial Assets”, Shaen Corbet, Andrew Meegan, Charles Larkin, Brian Lucey and Larisa Yarovaya apply a battery of tests to analyze relationships: (1) among three cryptocurrencies; and, (2) between the cryptocurrencies and conventional asset classes. They consider cryptocurrencies with market values over $1B at the end July 2017: Bitcoin, Ripple and Litecoin. They consider equities (S&P 500 Index), bonds (Markit ITTR110), commodities (S&P GSCI Total Returns Index), currencies (U.S. Dollar Broad Index), gold (COMEX close) and S&P 500 implied volatility (VIX) as conventional asset classes. Using daily data for Bitcoin, Ripple and Litecoin and for conventional asset classes as specified during April 29, 2013 through April 30, 2017, they 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)? SACEVS each month allocates funds to one or more of the following three asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus cash, based on relative valuations:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

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 (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during July 2002 (limited by TLT and LQD) through October 2017, 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)? SACEMS each month picks winners from the following set of exchange-traded funds (ETF) based on total returns over a specified lookback interval:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

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 total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during February 2006 (limited by DBC) through October 2017, we find that: Keep Reading

Shorting Equity Options to Automate Portfolio Rebalancing

Can investors refine portfolio rebalancing while capturing a volatility risk premium (VRP) by systematically shorting options matched to target allocations of the underlying asset? In their October 2017 paper entitled “An Alternative Option to Portfolio Rebalancing”, Roni Israelov and Harsha Tummala explore multi-asset class portfolio rebalancing via an option selling overlay. The overlay sells out-of-the-money options such that, if stocks rise (fall), counterparties exercise call (put) options and the portfolio must sell (buy) shares. They intend their approach to counter short-term momentum exposure between rebalancings (when the portfolio is overweight winners and underweight losers) with short-term reversal exposure inherent in short options. For testing, they assume: (1) a simple 60%-40% stocks-bonds portfolio; (2) bond returns are small compared to stock returns (so only the stock allocation requires rebalancing); and, (3) option settlement via share transfer, as for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as the stock/option positions. They each month sell nearest out-of-the-money S&P 500 Index  call and put options across multiple economically priced strikes and update the overlay intramonth if new economically priced strikes become available. Once sold, they hold the options to expiration. Using daily S&P 500 Total Return Index returns, Barclays US Aggregate Bond Index returns and closing bid/ask quotes for S&P 500 Index options equity options (with returns calculated in excess of the risk-free rate) during 1996 through 2015, they find that:

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SACEMS vs. Luck

How lucky would a asset class picker with no skill have to be to match the performance of the Simple Asset Class Momentum Strategy (SACEMS), which each month picks winners from the following set of exchange-traded funds (ETF) based on total returns over a specified lookback interval:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

To investigate, we run 1,000 trials of a “strategy” that each month allocates funds to one, the equally weighted two or the equally weighted three of these nine assets picked at random. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics. Using monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns and for the specified assets during February 2006 (limited by DBC) through October 2017, we find that:

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Return Forecasts Good Enough for Mean-variance Optimization?

Are there stock return forecasts good enough to make mean-variance optimization work as a stock portfolio allocation strategy? In their October 2017 paper entitled “Mean-Variance Optimization Using Forward-Looking Return Estimates”, Patrick Bielstein and Matthias Hanauer test whether firm implied cost of capital (ICC) based on analyst earnings forecasts is effective as a stock return forecast for mean-variance portfolio optimization. They derive ICC annually for each stock as the internal rate of return (discount rate) implied by a valuation model that equates forecasted cash flows, derived from analyst earnings forecasts, to market valuation. To refine ICC estimates, they correct predictable analyst forecast errors (slow reactions to news) by including a standardized, rescaled momentum variable based on return from 12 months ago to one month ago (ICCadj). They then employ ICCadj to specify annual (each June 30) mean-variance optimized (maximum Sharpe ratio) long-only stock allocations (with maximum weight 5%) based on stock return covariances calculated from returns over the last 60 months. For benchmarks, they consider the value-weighted market portfolio (VW), the equal-weighted market portfolio (EW), the minimum variance portfolio (MVP) and a maximum Sharpe ratio portfolio based on 5-year moving average actual returns (HIST). They focus on U.S. stocks, which have relatively broad analyst coverage. They test robustness of findings with data from selected international developed markets, different return variable specifications, different subperiods and impact of transaction costs. Using monthly data for the 1,000 U.S. common stocks with the biggest prior-month market capitalizations since June 1985 and the 250 biggest stocks in each of Europe, UK and Japan since 1990, all through June 2015, they find that:

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Multi-class, Multi-factor Investing

What is the best way to tackle multi-class, multi-factor investing? In their August 2017 paper entitled “Investing in a Multi-Asset Multi-Factor World”, Alexandar Cherkezov, Harald Lohre, Sergey Protchenko and Jay Raol investigate the use of factor investing across multiple asset classes. They define several factors for each of four asset classes, as follows:

  1. Equities (individual stocks for developed and emerging markets) – value, momentum, quality and low volatility.
  2. Currencies (forwards for developed and emerging markets) – carry, value, momentum and quality.
  3. Commodities (24 futures series) – carry, term (duration) and momentum.
  4. Interest rates (10-year swaps for developed and emerging markets) – carry, value, momentum and quality.

To integrate the portfolio with high diversification, they employ diversified risk parity by each month: (1) identifying uncorrelated clusters of risk across asset classes and factors based on a rolling 60-month or expanding (inception-to-date) lookback window; and, (2) setting long-only allocations such that each uncorrelated risk cluster contributes equally to overall portfolio risk. For comparison, they also consider equal weight, minimum variance and equal risk contribution (equal contribution to portfolio risk by each individual factor) allocation approaches. Using data needed to form factor portfolios and measure factor returns in U.S. dollars across asset classes from the end of January 2001 through the end of December 2016, they find that:

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Trend-following Managed Futures to Make Retirement Safer?

Should retirement portfolios include an allocation to managed futures? In his October 2017 paper entitled “Using Trend-Following Managed Futures to Increase Expected Withdrawal Rates”, Andrew Miller compares seven 30-year retirement scenarios via backtests and modified backtests. Specifically, he compares maximum annual real withdrawal rates as a percentage of initial assets that do not exhaust any 30-year retirement portfolios starting each year during 1926-2012 (SAFEMAX). The seven scenarios, all rebalanced annually, are:

  1. Historical Returns 50-50: uses actual annual returns for a 50% allocation to large-capitalization U.S. stocks and a 50% allocation to intermediate-term U.S. Treasuries.
  2. Historical Returns 50-40-10: same as Scenario 1, except shifts 10% of the Treasuries allocation to a trend-following managed futures strategy that is long and short 67 stocks, bonds, currencies and commodities futures series based on equally weighted 1-month, 3-month and 12-month past returns with a 10% annual volatility target.
  3. Lower Historical Returns 50-50: same as Scenario 1, but reduces monthly returns for stocks and Treasuries by 0.19%, reflecting end-of-2016 valuations.
  4. Lower Historical Returns 50-40-10: same as Scenario 2, but reduces monthly returns for stocks, Treasuries and managed futures by 0.19%.
  5. Lower Managed Futures Sharpe Ratio 50-40-10: same as Scenario 2, but reduces the Sharpe ratio for managed futures from an historical level to 0.5.
  6. Lower Historical Returns/Lower Managed Futures Sharpe Ratio 50-40-10: same as Scenario 4, but reduces Sharpe ratio for managed futures to 0.5.
  7. Historical Returns 50-50 with Trend Following for Stocks: same as Scenario 1, but each month puts the stocks allocation into stocks (30-day U.S. Treasury bills) when the return on stocks is positive (negative) over the prior 12 months.

He ignores all trading frictions, fees and taxes. Using monthly asset class returns as specified and monthly inflation data during January 1926 through December 2012, he finds that: Keep Reading

Effects of Execution Delay on SACEVS

How does execution delay affect the performance of the Best Value and Weighted versions of the “Simple Asset Class ETF Value Strategy” (SACEVS)? These strategies each month allocate funds to the following asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF) according to valuations of term, credit and equity risk premiums, or to cash if no premiums are undervalued:

3-month Treasury bills (Cash)
iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)

To investigate, we compare 21 variations of each strategy with execution days ranging from end-of-month (EOM) per the baseline strategy to 20 trading days after EOM (EOM+20). For example, an EOM+5 variation computes allocations baed on EOM but delays execution until the close five trading days after EOM. We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and gross maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key performance statistics. Using daily dividend-adjusted closes for the above ETFs from late July 2002 through mid-September 2017, we find that:

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Slow Down or Speed Up SACEMS with Volatility?

A subscriber, noting an article on slowing down intrinsic (absolute or time series) momentum for SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when its return volatility is relatively high, suggested doing the same for the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy (SACEMS). The hypothesis is that this dynamic lookback interval approach avoids undesirable whipsaws when asset returns are volatile. SACEMS each month picks winners from the following set of exchange-traded funds (ETF) based on total returns over a fixed lookback interval:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

To investigate the suggested dynamic lookback interval, we each month:

  1. Calculate the average of the standard deviations of daily returns over the last 60 trading days for the individual risky assets (all except Cash).
  2. Calculate the average of these end-of-month averages over the past 12 months.
  3. Divide the current month average standard deviation by the 12-month average of averages to get a lookback interval factor.
  4. Multiply the baseline fixed lookback interval by the current lookback interval factor.
  5. Round the result to the nearest whole number of months as the current dynamic lookback interval.

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 daily and monthly total (dividend-adjusted) returns for the specified assets during February 2006 (limited by DBC) through August 2017, we find that: Keep Reading

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