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Stock Factor Anomalies in Pre-1926 U.S. Data

December 9, 2021 • Posted in Momentum Investing, Size Effect, Value Premium, Volatility Effects

Do widely accepted equity factor premiums exist in data older than generally employed in academic studies? In their November 2021 paper entitled “The Cross-Section of Stock Returns before 1926 (And Beyond)”, Guido Baltussen, Bart van Vliet and Pim van Vliet look for some of the most widely accepted factor premiums in a newly assembled sample of U.S. stocks spanning January 1866 through December 1926 (61 years of additional and independent data). Specifically, they look at: size as measured by market capitalization; value as measured by dividend yield (strongly associated with earnings during the sample period); stock price momentum from 12 months ago to one month ago; short-term (1-month) return reversal; and, risk as measured by market beta. They use only those stocks which trade frequently and apply liquidity/data quality filters. To measure factor premiums, they each month for each factor:

  • Regress next-month stock return versus stock factor value and compute slopes of the relationship.
  • Reform a value-weighted hedge portfolio that is long (short) stocks with high (low) expected returns based on factor values to measure: (1) average factor portfolio gross return; and, (2) gross factor (CAPM) alphas and betas based on regression of factor portfolio excess return versus market excess return.

They further investigate economic explanations of factor premiums and test machine learning methods found successful with recent data. Using monthly prices, dividends and market capitalizations for 1,488 stocks in the new database, they find that:

(more…)

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