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Understanding the Variation in Equity Factor Returns

October 8, 2021 • Posted in Equity Premium, Momentum Investing, Value Premium

What is the best way to understand and anticipate variations in equity factor returns? Past research emphasizes factor return connections to business cycle variables or measures of investor sentiment (with little success). In his September 2021 paper entitled “The Quant Cycle”, David Blitz analyzes factor returns themselves to understand their variations, arguing that behavioral rather than economic forces drive them. He determines the quant cycle (bull and bear trends in factor returns) by qualitatively identifying peaks and troughs. He focuses on U.S. versions of four conventionally defined long-short factors frequently targeted by investors (value, quality, momentum and low-risk), emphasizing the most volatile (value and momentum). He also considers some alternative factors. Using monthly data for factors from the online data libraries of Kenneth French, Robeco and AQR spanning July 1963 through December 2020 (and for a reduced set of factors spanning January 1929 through June 1963), he finds that:

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