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Intrinsic Momentum or SMA for Avoiding Crashes?

| | Posted in: Momentum Investing, Technical Trading

A subscriber suggested comparing intrinsic momentum (IM), also called absolute momentum and time series momentum, to simple moving average (SMA) as alternative signals for equity market entry and exit. To investigate across a wide variety of economic and market conditions, we measure the long run performances of entry and exit signals from IMs over past intervals of one to 12 months (IM1 through IM12) and SMAs ranging from 2 to 12 months (SMA2 through SMA12). We consider two cases for IM signals and one case for SMA signals, as applied to the S&P 500 Index as a proxy for the stock market and the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) as a proxy for cash (the risk-free rate). The three rule types are therefore:

  1. IMs Case 1 - in stocks (cash) when past index return is positive (negative).
  2. IMs Case 2 - in stocks (cash) when average monthly past index return is above (below) average monthly T-bill yield over the same interval.
  3. SMAs - in stocks (cash) when the index is above (below) the SMA.

We estimate S&P 500 Index monthly total returns using monthly dividend yield calculated from Shiller data. This estimation does not affect index timing signals. We focus on net compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) and annual Sharpe ratio as key performance metrics, with baseline stocks-cash switching frictions 0.2%. We use buying and holding the S&P 500 Index (B&H) as a benchmark. Using monthly closes of the S&P 500 Index during December 1927 through November 2019 (92 years), and contemporaneous monthly index dividend and T-bill yields, we find that:

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