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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.

Optimal Cycle for Monthly SMA Signals?

A subscriber commented and asked:

“Some have suggested that the end-of-the-month effect benefits monthly simple moving average strategies that trade on the last day of the month. Is there an optimal day of the month for long-term SMA calculation and does the end-of-the-month effect explain the optimal day?”

To investigate, we compare 21 variations of a 10-month simple moving average (SMA10) timing strategy generated by shifting the monthly return calculation cycle relative to trading days from the end of the month (EOM). Specifically, the 21 variations represent calculation cycles ranging from 10 trading days before EOM (EOM-10) to 10 trading days after EOM (EOM+10). We apply the strategy to the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the U.S. stock market. The strategy holds the S&P 500 Index (cash) whenever the index is above (below) its SMA10 as of the most recent monthly calculation. Using daily S&P 500 Index closes and 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yields as the return on cash during January 1990 through mid-June 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Simple Tests of Sy Harding’s Seasonal Timing Strategy

Does the technically adjusted Seasonal Timing Strategy popularized some years ago in Sy Harding’s Street Smart Report Online (now unavailable due to Mr. Harding’s death) generate attractive performance? This strategy combines “the market’s best average calendar entry [October 16] and exit [April 20] days with a technical indicator, the Moving Average Convergence Divergence (MACD).” According to Street Smart Report Online, applying this strategy to a Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) index fund generated a cumulative return of 213% during 1999 through 2012, compared to 93% for the DJIA itself. To check over a longer sample period with an alternative market proxy, we apply the strategy to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) since its inception and consider several alternatives, as follows:

  1. SPY – buy and hold SPY.
  2. Seasonal-MACD – seasonal timing per specified dates with MACD refinement, holding cash when not in SPY.
  3. Seasonal Only – seasonal timing per the same dates without MACD refinement, again holding cash when not in SPY.
  4. SMA200 – hold SPY (cash) when the S&P 500 Index is above (below) its 200-day simple moving average at the prior daily close. 

For all strategies, we use the yield on short-term U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) as the return on cash. Using daily closes for the S&P 500 Index, dividend-adjusted closes for SPY and T-bill yield during 1/29/93 (SPY inception) through 5/13/19, we find that: Keep Reading

Optimal Intrinsic Momentum and SMA Intervals Across Asset Classes

What are the optimal intrinsic/absolute/time series momentum (IM) and simple moving average (SMA) measurement intervals for different asset class proxies? To investigate, we use data from the Simple Asset Class ETF Momentum Strategy for the following eight asset class exchange-traded funds (ETF), plus Cash:

PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)
iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index (EEM)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
SPDR Gold Shares (GLD)
iShares Russell 2000 Index (IWM)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
iShares Barclays 20+ Year Treasury Bond (TLT)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
3-month Treasury bills (Cash)

For IM tests, we invest in each ETF (Cash) when its return over the past one to 12 months is positive (negative). For SMA tests, we invest in each ETF (Cash) when its price is above (below) its average monthly price over the past two to 12 months. Since SMA rules use price levels and IM rules use returns, IM measurement interval N corresponds to SMA measurement interval N+1. For example, a 6-month IM measurement uses the same start and stop points as a 7-month SMA measurement. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD) as key metrics for comparing different IM and SMA measurement intervals since earliest ETF data availabilities based on the longest IM measurement interval. Using monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the asset class proxies and the yield for Cash over the period July 2002 (or inception if not available by then) through April 2019, we find that:

Keep Reading

Long-term SMA and TOTM Combination Strategy

“Turn-of-the-Month Effect Persistence and Robustness” indicates that average absolute returns during the turn-of-the-month (TOTM) are strong for both bull and bear markets. Does a strategy of capturing all bull market returns and TOTM returns only during bear markets perform well? To investigate, we apply four strategies to S&P Depository Receipts (SPY) as a tradable proxy for the stock market:

  1. Buy and hold SPY.
  2. Hold SPY (cash) when SPY closes above (below) its 200-day simple moving average (SMA200).
  3. Hold SPY from the close five trading days before through the close four trading days after the last trading day of each month and cash at all other times (TOTM).
  4. Hold SPY when SPY closes above its 200-day SMA and otherwise use the TOTM strategy (SMA200 or TOTM).

We explore sensitivities of these strategies to a range of one-way SPY-cash switching frictions, with baseline 0.1%. Using daily dividend-adjusted closing levels of SPY from inception (January 1993) through early April 2019 and contemporaneous 3-month Treasury bill (T-bill) yields, we find that: Keep Reading

Trailing Stop-loss Effectiveness for Stocks

How well do trailing stop-loss rules work for U.S. stocks? In their March 2019 paper entitled “Risk Reduction Using Trailing Stop-Loss Rules”, Bochuan Dai, Ben Marshall, Nick Nguyen and Nuttawat Visaltanachoti evaluate effectiveness of trailing stop-loss rules. Traditional stop-loss rules are price-based or time-based. Trailing stop rules sell (buy back) a stock when it declines X% from a high price (rises X% above a low price). The initial trailing stop is X% below the purchase price, remaining at this level unless the stock price rises and escalates to X% below each new high. Stock sales occur at the close on the day after respective stop-loss triggers, with proceeds moved to U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills). Stock re-entries occur at the close on the day after respective buy triggers (see the figure below). They consider trailing stop thresholds of 1%, 5%, 10% and 20%. They use buy-and-hold as a benchmark. Using daily returns for 25,997 common stocks, including delisted stocks, during July 1926 through December 2016, they find that:

Keep Reading

Comparing Ivy 5 Allocation Strategy Variations

A subscriber requested comparison of four variations of an “Ivy 5” asset class allocation strategy, as follows:

  1. Ivy 5 EW: Assign equal weight (EW), meaning 20%, to each of the five positions and rebalance annually.
  2. Ivy 5 EW + SMA10: Same as Ivy 5 EW, but take to cash any position for which the asset is below its 10-month simple moving average (SMA10).
  3. Ivy 5 Volatility Cap: Allocate to each position a percentage up to 20% such that the position has an expected annualized volatility of no more than 10% based on daily volatility over the past month, recalculated monthly. If under 20%, allocate the balance of the position to cash.
  4. Ivy 5 Volatility Cap + SMA10: Same as Ivy 5 Volatility Cap, but take completely to cash any position for which the asset is below its SMA10.

To perform the tests, we employ the following five asset class proxies:

iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF)
SPDR S&P 500 (SPY)
Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ)
iShares MSCI EAFE Index (EFA)
PowerShares DB Commodity Index Tracking (DBC)

We consider monthly performance statistics, annual performance statistics, and full-sample compound annual growth rate (CAGR) and maximum drawdown (MaxDD). The DBC series in combination with the SMA10 rule are limiting with respect to sample start date and the first return calculations. Using daily and monthly dividend-adjusted closing prices for the five asset class proxies and the yield on U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) as the return on cash during February 2006 through March 2019, we find that: Keep Reading

Optimal Retirement Glidepath with Trend Following

What are optimal allocations during retirement years for a portfolio of stocks and bonds, without and with a trend following overlay? In their March 2019 paper entitled “Absolute Momentum, Sustainable Withdrawal Rates and Glidepath Investing in US Retirement Portfolios from 1925”, Andrew Clare, James Seaton, Peter Smith and Steve Thomas compare outcomes across two sets of U.S. retirement portfolios since 1925:

  1. Standard – allocations to the S&P 500 Index and a bond index ranging from all stocks to all bonds in increments of 10%, rebalanced at the end of each month.
  2. Trend following – the same portfolios with a trend following overlay that shifts stock index and bond index allocations to U.S. Treasury bills (T-bills) when below respective 10-month simple moving averages at the end of the preceding month.

They consider investment horizons of 2 to 30 years to assess glidepath effects. They consider both U.S. Treasury bonds and U.S. corporate bonds to assess credit effects. For comparison of portfolio outcomes, they use real (inflation-adjusted) returns and focus on Perfect Withdrawal Rate (PWR), the maximum annual withdrawal rate that results in zero terminal value (requiring perfect foresight). Using monthly data for the S&P 500 Index, U.S. government and corporate bond indexes and U.S. inflation during 1926 through 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Joint Fundamental and Technical Analysis

What kinds of fundamental and technical indicators play well together? In their August 2018 paper entitled “When Buffett Meets Bollinger: An Integrated Approach to Fundamental and Technical Analysis”, Zhaobo Zhu and Licheng Sun test performance of six stock portfolios that jointly exploit one of three popular fundamental indicators and one of two popular technical indicators, as follows:

  1. Piotroski’s FSCORE – each quarter long (short) stocks having high (low) scores summarizing a composite of accounting variables.
  2. Standardized unexpected earnings (SUE) – each quarter long (short) the fifth of stocks with the highest (lowest) earnings surprises.
  3. Return on equity (ROE) – each quarter long (short) the fifth of stocks with the highest (lowest) ROEs.
  4. Moving averages (MA) – each month long (short) stocks with 20-day MAs above (below) 125-day MAs at the end of the prior month.
  5. Bollinger bands (BOLL) – long (short) stocks below (above) one standard deviation of daily prices below (above) the average prices over the past 20 trading days.

Specifically, for each of six fundamental-technical pairs, they each month reform a portfolio that is long (short) stocks with both fundamental and technical buy (sell) signals. For risk adjustment, they employ widely used 5-factor (market, size, book-to-market, profitability, investment) alpha. Using accounting data and stock returns for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks priced at least $5, plus monthly factor returns, during January 1985 through December 2015, they find that:

Keep Reading

Country Stock Market Anomaly Momentum

Do country stock market anomalies have trends? In his March 2018 paper entitled “The Momentum Effect in Country-Level Stock Market Anomalies”, Adam Zaremba investigates whether country-level stock market return anomalies exhibit trends (momentum) based on their past returns. Specifically, he:

  • Screens potential anomalies via monthly reformed hedge portfolios that long (short) the equal-weighted or capitalization-weighted fifth of country stock market indexes with the highest (lowest) expected gross returns based on one of 40 market-level characteristics/combinations of characteristics. Characteristics span aggregate market value, momentum, reversal, skewness, quality, volatility, liquidity, net stock issuance and seasonality metrics.
  • Tests whether the most reliable anomalies exhibit trends (momentum) based on their respective returns over the past 3, 6, 9 or 12 months.
  • Compares performance of a portfolio that is long the third of reliable anomalies with the highest past returns to that of a portfolio that is long the equal-weighted combination of all reliable anomalies.

He performs all calculations twice, accounting in a second iteration for effects of taxes on dividends across countries. Using returns for capitalization-weighted country stock market indexes and data required for the 40 anomaly hedge portfolios as available across 78 country markets during January 1995 through May 2015, he finds that: Keep Reading

DJIA-Gold Ratio as a Stock Market Indicator

A reader requested a test of the following hypothesis from the article “Gold’s Bluff – Is a 30 Percent Drop Next?” [no longer available]: “Ironically, gold is more than just a hedge against market turmoil. Gold is actually one of the most accurate indicators of the stock market’s long-term direction. The Dow Jones measured in gold is a forward looking indicator.” To test this assertion, we examine relationships between the spot price of gold and the level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). Using monthly data for the spot price of gold in dollars per ounce and DJIA over the period January 1971 through January 2019 (577 months), we find that: Keep Reading

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