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Robustness of Machine Learning Return Forecasting

September 12, 2023 • Posted in Equity Premium, Investing Expertise

Are new machine learning portfolio strategies practically better than old stock factor ways? In their August 2023 paper entitled “Predicting Returns with Machine Learning Across Horizons, Firms Size, and Time”, Nusret Cakici, Christian Fieberg, Daniel Metko and Adam Zaremba examine the ability of various machine learning models to predict stock returns for: (1) monthly and annual return forecast horizons; (2) three ranges of firm size; and, (3) two subperiods. They apply eight machine learning models (including simple and penalized linear regressions, dimension reduction techniques, regression trees and neural networks) to 153 firm/stock characteristics following approaches typical in the finance literature. For each model, they employ rolling 11-year intervals, with:

  • Model training using the first seven years.
  • Model validation using the next three years.
  • Out-of-sample testing the last year using hedge portfolios that are long (short) the value-weighted fifth, or quintile, of stocks with the highest (lowest) predicted returns, reformed either monthly or annually depending forecast horizon.

They focus on gross 6-factor (market, size, book-to-market, profitability, investment, momentum) alpha to assess machine learning effectiveness. Using data for the selected 153 firm/stock characteristics and associated stock returns, measured monthly, for all listed U.S. stocks during January 1972 through December 2020, they find that: (more…)

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