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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.

Simple Volatility Harvesting?

Findings in “Add Stop-gain to Asset Class Momentum Strategy?” suggest that systematic capture of upside volatility may enhance the base strategy. Does this conclusion hold for a simpler application to a single liquid asset over a longer sample period? To investigate, we apply a stop-gain rule to SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) that: (1) exits SPY if its intra-month return exceeds a specified threshold; and, (2) re-enters SPY at the end of the month. We also look at a corresponding stop-loss rule. Using monthly unadjusted highs, lows and closes (for stop-gain and stop-loss calculations) and dividend-adjusted closes (for return calculations) for SPY during February 1993 through November 2015 (275 months), we find that:

Keep Reading

Stop-losses on Stock Positions in Depth

Do stop-losses usefully mitigate downside risk in realistic scenarios? In their November 2015 paper entitled “Stop-Loss Strategies with Serial Correlation, Regime Switching, and Transactions Costs”, Andrew Lo and Alexander Remorov analyze the value of stop-losses when asset returns are autocorrelated (trending), regime switching (bull and bear) and subject to trading costs. They consider daily and 10-day measurement intervals, with respective stop-loss ranges of 0% to -6% and 0% to -14%. If at any daily close the cumulative return on the risky asset over the measurement interval falls below a specified threshold, they immediately switch to the risk-free asset (U.S. Treasury bills). They consider two ways to execute stop-loss signals: (1) assume it is possible to estimate signals just before the close and sell at the same close; or, (2) use a signal from the prior close to trigger a market-on-close sell order the next day (delayed execution). They re-enter the risky asset when its cumulative return over a specified interval exceeds a specified threshold. They employ both simulations and empirical tests. For simulations, they estimate trading cost as 0.2%, the average half bid-ask spread of all sampled stocks during 2013-2014. For empirical tests, they use actual half bid-ask spreads as available and estimates otherwise. Empirical findings are most relevant to short-term traders who employ tight stop-losses. Using daily returns and bid-ask spreads as available for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks during 1964 through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Long-run Moving Average Horse Race for Timing the U.S. Stock Market

Does timing the U.S. stock market with moving averages work? In his October 2015 paper entitled “A Comprehensive Look at the Real-Life Performance of Moving Average Trading Strategies”, Valeriy Zakamulin employs a very long dataset to estimate out-of-sample performance and robustness (subsample performance) of four distinct technical trading rules. Specifically, he seeks answers to the following questions:

  • How well does market timing really work?
  • Does overweighting or underweighting recent prices improve market timing?
  • Do timing rules have optimal lookback intervals?
  • Can timing rules accurately exploit bull and bear market states?

The four trading rules are:

  1. Momentum (MOM) – final price minus initial price across the measurement interval.
  2. Price minus Simple Moving-Average (P-SMA) – final price minus linearly decreasing weighted average of past prices backward over the measurement interval.
  3. Price minus Reverse Exponential Moving Average (P-REMA) – final price minus exponentially decreasing weighted average of past prices with decay factor 0.8, for an effect between MOM and P-SMA.
  4. Double-Crossover Method (DCM) – long-interval EMA minus short-interval EMA with decay factors 0.8 and the short interval fixed at two months.

For all four rules, a positive (negative or zero) signal means hold stocks (the risk-free asset) the following month. For optimization of moving average lookback intervals, he considers both rolling 10-year windows and inception-to-date (expanding window) data and tests intervals up to 24 months. His total sample spans 1860 through 2014, with the first 10 years reserved for lookback interval optimization. He also considers two equal subsamples (1860-1942 and 1932-2014), with the first 10 years of each reserved for initial optimization. He assumes one-way switching friction 0.25%. He uses several risk-adjusted performance measures, emphasizing Sharpe ratio. Using monthly capital gains and total returns of the S&P Composite stock price index and the contemporaneous U.S. Treasury bill yield as the risk-free rate during January 1860 through December 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Exploiting the Trend Lag of Small Stocks?

Do small capitalization stocks exploitably lag broad market trends? In their October 2015 paper entitled “Slow Trading and Stock Return Predictability”, Matthijs Lof and Matti Suominen investigate whether overall stock market trends predict variation in the size effect and therefore the performance of small capitalization exchange-traded funds (ETF). For size effect testing, they each year at the end of June rank stocks into tenths (deciles) by market capitalization and calculate the size effect as the difference in value-weighted average returns between the smallest and largest deciles. Using daily returns, trading volumes and institutional buying and selling data for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks during 1964 through 2014 and for a selection of small capitalization ETFs as available through 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Valuation/Trend Hedging of a Value and Momentum Stock Portfolio

Is there a way to suppress the volatility and drawdowns of a mixed value and momentum stock strategy while retaining most of its benefit? In his September 2015 paper entitled “Learning to Play Offense and Defense: Combining Value and Momentum from the Bottom up, and the Top Down”, Mebane Faber examines the feasibility of a strategy that combines market valuation and market trend timing (defense) with a mixed value and momentum stock selection strategy (offense). Specifically:

For offense, he each month: (1) ranks stocks by each of price-to-earnings, price-to-book and earnings before interest and taxes-to-total enterprise value ratios and then re-ranks them by the average of the three separate value rankings; (2) ranks stocks by each of 3-month, 6-month and 12-month past returns and then re-ranks them by the average of the three separate momentum rankings; and, (3) forms an equally weighted portfolio of the top 100 value and top 100 momentum stocks and holds for three months (three overlapping portfolios).

For defense, he each month: (1) hedges half of the portfolio by shorting the S&P 500 Index if the long-term real earnings yield for the S&P 500 (inverse of the Cyclically Adjusted Price-Earnings ratio, CAPE or P/E10 as calculated by Robert Shiller, minus the most recently available actual 12-month U.S. inflation rate) is in the 20% of its lowest inception-to-date monthly values; and, (2) hedges half of the portfolio by shorting the S&P 500 Index if the index is below its 12-month simple moving average. 

The overall portfolio can therefore be 100% long “offense” stocks, 50% hedged or market neutral. He does not account for costs of portfolio reformations or hedging. Using monthly total returns for all NYSE stocks in the top 60% of market capitalizations, monthly levels of the S&P 500 Total Return Index and monthly values of CAPE during 1964 through 2014, he finds that: Keep Reading

Exploiting Stock Limit Order Books?

Do stock limit order books tip the direction of stock price? In their October 2015 paper entitled “Enhancing Trading Strategies with Order Book Signals”, Alvaro Cartea, Ryan Donnelly and Sebastian Jaimungal test the use of buying and selling pressures based on limit order book data to predict the direction, depth and magnitude of near-term stock price movements. They define pressure simply as the difference between the volume of limit orders at the highest bid minus volume of limit orders at the lowest ask, divided by the sum of the two volumes. When the ratio approaches 1 (-1), there is strong buying (selling) pressure. They test the degree to which traders can enhance performance of round-trip trading strategies by exploiting buying and selling pressure. Using stock limit order book data for ten Nasdaq stocks with relatively large tick sizes during January 2014 through June 2014 to calibrate trading rules and during July 2014 through December 2014 to test application of the rules to trading, they find that: Keep Reading

Annual Stock Market Streaks

Are annual stock market winning and losing streaks informative about future market performance? To investigate, we consider up and down annual streaks for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA). We look at streaks in two ways:

  1. Retrospective (non-overlapping). We know the total duration of each streak.
  2. Experienced (real-time and partially overlapping). We know each year how long a streak has lasted, but we don’t know when it will end.

Using DJIA annual returns for 1929 through 2014 (86 years), we find that: Keep Reading

Profit Drivers of Actual Short-term Algorithmic Trading?

What drives the profitability of algorithmic long-short statistical arbitrage trading (such as pairs trading) of liquid U.S. stocks? In their September 2015 paper entitled “Performance v. Turnover: A Story by 4,000 Alphas”, Zura Kakushadze and Igor Tulchinsky examine portfolio turnover and portfolio volatility as potential net return drivers for such trading. Their data source is 4,002 randomly selected portfolios (essentially synonymous with “alphas” in their lexicon) from a substantially larger survivorship bias-free pool of real trading accounts. Position holding periods for sampled portfolios range from 0.7 to 19 trading days. The authors exclude 366 portfolios with negative performance and then remove 347 portfolios as outliers for a residual sample of 3,289 portfolios. Using daily closing prices for holdings in these portfolios over an unspecified sample period, they find that: Keep Reading

High-Frequency Technical Trading of Gold and Silver?

Does simple technical analysis based on moving averages work on high-frequency spot gold and silver trading? In their August 2015 paper entitled “Does Technical Analysis Beat the Market? – Evidence from High Frequency Trading in Gold and Silver”, Andrew Urquhart, Jonathan Batten, Brian Lucey, Frank McGroarty and Maurice Peat examine the profitability of 5-minute moving average technical analysis in the gold and silver spot markets. They consider simple moving average (SMA), exponential moving average (EMA) and weighted moving average (WMA) crossing rules. These rules buy (sell) when a fast moving average crosses above (below) a slow moving average. They start with four commonly used parameter settings, all using a fast moving average of one interval paired with a slow moving average of 50, 100, 150 or 200 intervals [(1-50), (1-100), (1-150) or (1-200)]. They then test all combinations of a fast moving average ranging from 1 to 49 intervals and a slow moving average ranging from 50 to 500 intervals, generating a total of 66,297 distinct rules. To compensate for data snooping bias, they specify in-sample and out-of-sample subperiods and test whether the most successful in-sample rules work out-of-sample. They also use bootstrapping as an additional robustness test. Using 5-minute spot gold and silver prices during January 2008 through mid-September 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Technical vs. Fundamental Investment Recommendations

Are expert technicians or fundamentalists better forecasters of short-term and intermediate-term asset returns? In the August 2015 version of their paper entitled “Talking Numbers: Technical versus Fundamental Recommendations”, Doron Avramov, Guy Kaplanski and Haim Levy assess the economic value of dual technical and fundamental recommendations presented simultaneously on “Talking Numbers”, a CNBC and Yahoo joint broadcast… “featuring fundamental and technical recommendations before and during the market open. Dual recommendations are made by highly experienced analysts representing prominent institutions.” Recommendations address both individual stocks and asset classes, including U.S. and foreign broad equity indexes, sector/industry equity indexes, bonds, commodities and exchange rates. Using 1,000 dual recommendations on 262 stocks and 620 dual recommendations on other assets, along with associated price data, during November 2011 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

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