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Exhaustively Timing Equity Factor Premiums

November 21, 2023 • Posted in Equity Premium, Momentum Investing, Size Effect, Value Premium

Can investors reliably time the market, size, value and profitability long-short equity factor premiums? In their October 2023 paper entitled “Another Look at Timing the Equity Premiums”, Wei Dai and Audrey Dong test strategies that time these four premiums in U.S., developed ex-U.S. and emerging equity markets. They define the premiums as:

  1. Market – the capitalization-weighted market return minus the U.S. Treasury bill yield.
  2. Size – average return on small-capitalization stocks minus average return on large-capitalization stocks.
  3. Value – average return on value stocks minus average return on growth stocks.
  4. Profitability – average return on stocks of high-profitability firms minus average return on stocks of low-profitability firms.

They time each premium separately based on each of:

  1. Valuation ratio – When the difference in aggregate price-to-book ratio between the long and short sides of a premium becomes high (low) relative to its historical distribution, switch to the short (long) side.
  2. Mean reversion – When the premium itself becomes high (low) relative to its historical distribution, switch to the short (long) side  of the premium.
  3. Momentum – When the premium over the last year becomes relatively high (low), switch to the long (short) side of the premium.

To measure historical premium distributions, they consider an expanding window of initial length 10 years or a rolling 10-year window. For switching to the short side of premiums, they consider historical distribution thresholds of top 10%, 20% or 50% (bottom 10%, 20% or 50%) for valuation ratio and mean reversion (momentum). For switching to the long side of premiums, they consider thresholds of bottom 10%, 20% or 50% (top 50%) for valuation ratio and mean reversion (momentum). They consider  monthly or annual portfolio rebalancing. The number of timing strategies tested is thus 720. For the U.S. sample, monthly returns start in July 1963 for profitability and July 1927 for the other three premiums. For the developed ex-U.S. (emerging markets) sample, premium returns start in July 1990 (July 1994). Benchmarks are returns to strategies that continuously hold just the long side of each premium portfolio. Using monthly data as specified through December 2022, they find that: (more…)

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