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Examining Disruptive/Transformational Thematic Indexes

August 24, 2021 • Posted in Fundamental Valuation, Value Premium

Leading index providers have introduced thematic stock indexes to address transformative macroeconomic, geopolitical or technological trends (for example, cybersecurity, robotics, autonomous vehicles and clean power). How do these indexes relate to standard asset pricing models? In his August 2021 paper entitled “Betting Against Quant: Examining the Factor Exposures of Thematic Indices”, David Blitz examines the performance characteristics of these indexes based on widely used factor models of stock returns and discusses why investors may follow these indexes via exchange-traded funds (ETF) despite unfavorable factor exposures. He considers 36 S&P indexes (narrower, equal-weighted) and 12 MSCI indexes (broader, capitalization-weighted) with at least three years of history. Using monthly returns for these 48 indexes and for components of the Fama-French 5-factor (market, size, book-to-market, profitability and investment) model and the momentum factor as available during June 2013 through April 2021, he finds that:

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