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Recent Interactions of Asset Classes with Economic Policy Uncertainty

February 1, 2022 • Posted in Bonds, Commodity Futures, Economic Indicators, Equity Premium, Gold, Real Estate

How do returns of different asset classes recently interact with uncertainty in government economic policy as quantified by the Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index? This index at the beginning of each month incorporates from the prior month:

  1. Coverage of policy-related economic uncertainty by prominent newspapers (50% weight).
  2. Number of temporary federal tax code provisions set to expire in future years (one sixth weight).
  3. Level of disagreement in one-year forecasts among participants in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s Survey of Professional Forecasters for both (a) the consumer price index (one sixth weight) and (b) purchasing of goods and services by federal, state and local governments (one sixth weight).

Because the historical EPU Index series includes substantial revisions to prior months, we focus on monthly percentage changes in EPU Index and look at lead-lag relationships between change in EPU Index and returns for each of the following 10 exchange-traded fund (ETF) asset class proxies:

  • Equities:
    • SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
    • iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
    • iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
    • iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
  • Bonds:
    • iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
    • iShares iBoxx $ Investment Grade Corporate Bond (LQD)
    • iShares JPMorgan Emerging Markets Bond Fund (EMB)
  • Real assets:
    • Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
    • SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
    • Invesco DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

Using monthly levels of the EPU Index and monthly dividend-adjusted prices for the 10 specified ETFs during December 2007 (limited by EMB) through December 2021, we find that: (more…)

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