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Using the Money Anxiety Index for ETF Selection

March 21, 2024 • Posted in Economic Indicators, Sentiment Indicators

Does anxiety about having enough money play an important role in asset selection decisions, and thereby asset returns? In his March 2024 paper entitled “Money Anxiety Theory – a Predictor of Equity’s Performance”, Dan Geller tests the ability of his proprietary Money Anxiety Index (MAI) to identify long and short portfolios of ETFs that beat the S&P 500 Index. MAI consists of a group of major economic indicators published monthly by the U.S. Department of Commerce, selected because they meet the goodness-of-fit criteria of Structural Equation Modeling. The selected variables do not include any equity market series. Using monthly data, he relates MAI to prices of 697 exchange-traded funds (EFT) during an April 2010 through April 2018 in-sample period to select the five with the most negative correlations (long portfolio) and the five with the most positive correlations (short portfolio). He then compares returns for these long and short portfolios (no rebalancing) to that of the S&P 500 Index from the beginnings of May 2018, May 2020 or May 2022 through the beginning of May 2023. Using the specified beginning-of-month data during April 2010 through May 2023, he finds that:


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