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Technical Trading

Does technical trading work, or not? Rationalists dismiss it; behavioralists investigate it. Is there any verdict? These blog entries relate to technical trading.

Hold Stocks Only After All-time Market Highs?

A subscriber asked for verification of the finding in “Is Buying Stocks at an All-Time High a Good Idea?” that it is not only a good idea, but a great one, including comparison to a moving average crossover rule. To investigate, we use the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the U.S. stock market and test a strategy that holds SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when the S&P 500 Index stands at an all-time high at the end of last month and otherwise holds Vanguard Long-Term Treasury Fund Investor Shares (VUSTX). We compare results to buying and holding SPY, buying and holding VUSTX, and holding SPY (VUSTX) when the S&P 500 Index is above (below) its 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) at the end of last month. We assume 0.1% switching frictions. We compute average net monthly return, standard deviation of monthly returns, net monthly Sharpe ratio (with monthly T-bill yield as the risk-free rate), net compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key strategy performance metrics. We calculate the number of switches for each scenario to indicate sensitivities to switching frictions and taxes. Using monthly closes for the S&P 500 Index, SPY and VUSTX during January 1993 (inception of SPY) through October 2019, we find that:

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Combining Economic Policy Uncertainty and Stock Market Trend

A subscriber requested, as in “Combine Market Trend and Economic Trend Signals?”, testing of a strategy that combines: (1) U.S. Economic Policy Uncertainty (EPU) Index, as described and tested separately in “Economic Policy Uncertainty and the Stock Market”; and, (2) U.S. stock market trend. We consider two such combinations. The first combines:

  • 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) for the broad U.S. stock market as proxied by the S&P 500 Index. The trend is bullish (bearish) when the index is above (below) its SMA10 at the end of last month.
  • Sign of the change in EPU Index last month. A positive (negative) sign is bearish (bullish).

The second combines:

  • SMA10 for the S&P 500 Index as above.
  • 12-month simple moving average (SMA12) for the EPU Index. The trend is bullish (bearish) when the EPU Index is below (above) its SMA12 at the end of last month.

We consider alternative timing strategies that hold SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) when: the S&P 500 Index SMA10 is bullish; the EPU Index indicator is bullish; either indicator for a combination is bullish; or, both indicators for a combination are bullish. When not in SPY, we use the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the return on cash, with 0.1% switching frictions. We assume all indicators for a given month can be accurately estimated for signal execution at the market close the same month. We compute average net monthly return, standard deviation of monthly returns, net monthly Sharpe ratio (with monthly T-bill yield as the risk-free rate), net compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key strategy performance metrics. We calculate the number of switches for each scenario to indicate sensitivities to switching frictions and taxes. Using monthly values for the EPU Index, the S&P 500 Index, SPY and T-bill yield during January 1993 (inception of SPY) through October 2019, we find that:

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Using RSI(2) to Trade Leveraged ETFs

A subscriber asked for an update on the effectiveness of applying a two-period Relative Strength Index, RSI(2), to leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETF), with two pairs of trade entry (oversold) and exit (overbought) settings:

  1. Buy when RSI(2) falls below 10 and sell when it subsequently rises over 90 (10-90).
  2. More conservatively, buy when RSI(2) falls below 5 and exit when it subsequently rises over 70 (5-70).

To investigate, we run simple tests on ProShares Ultra S&P 500 (SSO) with RSI(2) calculations based on the RSI template from StockCharts. Using daily adjusted SSO opens and closes during July 2006 (the first full month SSO is available) through October 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Combine Market Trend and Economic Trend Signals?

A subscriber requested review of an analysis concluding that combining economic trend and market trend signals enhances market timing performance. Specifically, per the example in the referenced analysis, we look at combining:

  • The 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) for the broad U.S. stock market. The trend is positive (negative) when the market is above (below) its SMA10.
  • The 12-month simple moving average (SMA12) for the U.S. unemployment rate (UR). The trend is positive (negative) when UR is below (above) its SMA12.

We consider scenarios when the stock market trend is positive, the UR trend is positive, either trend is positive or both trends are positive. We consider two samples: (1) dividend-adjusted SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) since inception at the end of January 1993 (nearly 26 years); and, (2) the S&P 500 Index (SP500) since January 1948 (limited by UR availability), adjusted monthly by estimated dividends from the Shiller dataset, for longer-term robustness tests (nearly 71 years). Per the referenced analysis, we use the seasonally adjusted civilian UR, which comes ultimately from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS generally releases UR monthly within a few days after the end of the measured month. We make the simplifying assumptions that UR for a given month is available for SMA12 calculation and signal execution at the market close for that same month. When not in the stock market, we assume return on cash from the broker is the yield on 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill). We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratio as key performance metrics. We use the average monthly T-bill yield during a year as the risk-free rate for that year in Sharpe ratio calculations. While we do not apply any stocks-cash switching frictions or tax considerations, we do calculate the number of switches for each scenario. Using specified monthly data through September 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

“Best” Indicator Consistency Across Samples

A subscriber inquired whether “The Only Indicator You Will Ever Need” really works. This technical indicator, a form of the Coppock Guide (or curve or indicator), applied to the Dow Jones Industrial Average by Jay Kaeppel, is a multi-parameter composite based on monthly closes as follows:

  1. Calculate the asset’s return over the past 11 months.
  2. Calculate the asset’s return over the past 14 months.
  3. Average these two past returns.
  4. Each month, calculate the 10-month front-weighted moving average (WMA) of this average (multiply the most recent value by 10, the next most recent by 9, the value for the month before that by 8, etc). Then sum the products and divide by 55.
  5. Hold the asset (cash) if this WMA is above (below) its value three months ago.

We designate this indicator 11-14WMA3. To test 11-14WMA3 in realistic scenarios, we apply it to the entire available histories for three exchange-traded funds (ETF): SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), SPDR Dow Jones Industrial Average (DIA) and iShares Russell 2000 (IWM). We consider buy-and-hold and a conventional 10-month simple moving average timing strategy (SMA10) as benchmarks. SMA10 holds the ETF (cash) when the ETF’s most recent monthly close is above (below) its 10-month SMA. Using monthly dividend-adjusted and unadjusted closes for the ETFs from their respective inceptions through September 2019 and contemporaneous 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield, we find that: Keep Reading

Combine Market Trend and Economic Trend Signals?

A subscriber requested review of an analysis concluding that combining economic trend and market trend signals enhances market timing performance. Specifically, per the example in the referenced analysis, we look at combining:

  • The 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) for the broad U.S. stock market. The trend is positive (negative) when the market is above (below) its SMA10.
  • The 12-month simple moving average (SMA12) for the U.S. unemployment rate (UR). The trend is positive (negative) when UR is below (above) its SMA12.

We consider scenarios when the stock market trend is positive, the UR trend is positive, either trend is positive or both trends are positive. We consider two samples: (1) dividend-adjusted SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) since inception at the end of January 1993 (nearly 26 years); and, (2) the S&P 500 Index (SP500) since January 1948 (limited by UR availability), adjusted monthly by estimated dividends from the Shiller dataset, for longer-term robustness tests (nearly 71 years). Per the referenced analysis, we use the seasonally adjusted civilian UR, which comes ultimately from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). BLS generally releases UR monthly within a few days after the end of the measured month. We make the simplifying assumptions that UR for a given month is available for SMA12 calculation and signal execution at the market close for that same month. When not in the stock market, we assume return on cash from the broker is the yield on 3-month U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill). We focus on gross compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratio as key performance metrics. We use the average monthly T-bill yield during a year as the risk-free rate for that year in Sharpe ratio calculations. While we do not apply any stocks-cash switching frictions or tax considerations, we do calculate the number of switches for each scenario. Using specified monthly data through September 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Jim Cramer Using the S&P Oscillator

A reader asked about the usefulness of the S&P Short-range Oscillator as sometimes used by Jim Cramer to forecast U.S. stock market returns. The self-reported “Performance” of the oscillator, relying on in-sample visual inspection with snooped thresholds, is of small use. Since continuous historical values of the indicator are not publicly available, we conduct an out-of-sample test by:

  1. Searching CNBC.com for “Oscillator” “Mad Money” and just “Oscillator” on October 3, 2019 and identifying articles with U.S. stock market forecasts from Jim Cramer based on the S&P Short-range Oscillator.
  2. Extracting the date for each forecast and determining whether it is call to be “In” or “Out” of the market.
  3. Calculating for each call a cumulative S&P 500 Index return starting at the next open after the article date (generally timestamped after the market close) for 21 trading days.
  4. Computing average cumulative performances of “In” and “Out” calls.
  5. Comparing these averages to that for all days spanning the search results.

Using the 15 qualifying articles and daily opening levels of the S&P 500 Index during June 16, 2008 through October 31, 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Sector Breadth as Market Return Indicator

Does breadth of equity sector performance predict overall stock market return? To investigate, we relate next-month stock market return to sector breadth (number of sectors with positive past returns) over lookback intervals ranging from 1 to 12 months. We consider the following nine sector exchange-traded funds (ETF) offered as Standard & Poor’s Depository Receipts (SPDR):

Materials Select Sector SPDR (XLB)
Energy Select Sector SPDR (XLE)
Financial Select Sector SPDR (XLF)
Industrial Select Sector SPDR (XLI)
Technology Select Sector SPDR (XLK)
Consumer Staples Select Sector SPDR (XLP)
Utilities Select Sector SPDR (XLU)
Health Care Select Sector SPDR (XLV)
Consumer Discretionary Select SPDR (XLY)

We use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) to represent the overall stock market. Using monthly dividend-adjusted returns for SPY and the sector ETFs during December 1998 through August 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

European Stock Return Predictors

Can investors effectively use firm characteristics to screen European stocks? In their August 2019 paper entitled “Predictability and the Cross-Section of Expected Returns: Evidence from the European Stock Market”, Wolfgang Drobetz, Rebekka Haller, Christian Jasperneite and Tizian Otto examine the power of 22 firm characteristics to predict stock returns individually and jointly. They assume market-based characteristics are available immediately and accounting-based characteristics are available four months after firm fiscal year end. For multi-characteristic predictions, they consider 5-characteristic, 8-characteristic and 22-characteristic models. For regression-based forecasts, they use either 10-year rolling or inception-to-date monthly inputs. For economic tests, they form equal-weighted or value-weighted portfolios that are each month long (short) the tenth, or decile, of stocks with the the highest (lowest) expected next-month returns based on 22-characteristic regression outputs. To estimate net performance, they apply one-way trading frictions of 0.57%. Using groomed monthly data for all firms in the STOXX Europe 600 index during January 2003 through December 2018, they find that:

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SMA10 vs. OFR FSI for Stock Market Timing

In response to “OFR FSI as Stock Market Return Predictor”, a subscriber suggested overlaying a 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) technical indicator on the Office of Financial Research Financial Stress Index (OFR FSI) fundamental indicator for timing SPDR S&P 500 (SPY). The intent of the suggested overlay is to expand risk-on opportunities safely. To test the overlay, we add four strategies (4 through 7) to the prior three, each evaluated since January 2000 and since January 2009:

  1. SPY – buy and hold SPY.
  2. OFR FSI-Cash – hold SPY (cash as proxied by 3-month U.S. Treasury bills) when OFR FSI at the end of the prior month is negative or zero (positive).
  3. OFR-FSI-VFITX – hold SPY (Vanguard Intermediate-Term Treasury Fund Investor Shares, VFITX, as a more aggressive risk-off asset than cash) when OFR FSI at the end of the prior month is negative or zero (positive).
  4. SMA10-Cash – hold SPY (cash) when the S&P 500 Index is above (at or below) its SMA10 at the end of the prior month.
  5. SMA10-VFITX – hold SPY (VFITX) when the S&P 500 Index is above (at or below) its SMA10 at the end of the prior month.
  6. OFR-FSI-SMA10-Cash – hold SPY (cash) when either signal 2 or signal 4 specifies SPY. Otherwise, hold cash.
  7. OFR-FSI-SMA10-VFITX – hold SPY (cash) when either signal 3 or signal 5 specifies SPY. Otherwise, hold VFITX.

Using end-of-month values of OFR FSI, SPY total return and level of the S&P 500 Index during January 2000 (OFR FSI inception) through June 2019, we find that:

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