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Volatility Effects

Reward goes with risk, and volatility represents risk. Therefore, volatility means reward; investors/traders get paid for riding roller coasters. Right? These blog entries relate to volatility effects.

Stock Portfolio Periodic Rebalancing vs. Buy-and-Hold

Is periodic rebalancing of a stock portfolio advantageous? In his May 2021 paper entitled “Does Volatility Harvesting Really Work?”, Magnus Pedersen compares performances of periodic rebalancing versus no rebalancing (buy-and-hold) for thousands of randomly constructed and initially equal-weighted portfolios of U.S. stocks. He tries different numbers of holdings, different start/end dates and different rebalancing intervals (daily, weekly, monthly, annually). He looks at arithmetic average returns, geometric average returns, simplified Sharpe ratios and maximum drawdowns of competing portfolios. Using daily stock-returns for over 900 large and liquid U.S. stocks during January 2007 through early 2021, he finds that: Keep Reading

Test of Seasonal Risk Adjustment Strategy

A subscriber requested review of a strategy that seeks to exploit “Sell in May” by switching between risk-on assets during November-April and risk-off assets during May-October, with assets specified as follows:

On each portfolio switch date, assets receive equal weight with 0.25% overall penalty for trading frictions. We focus on compound annual growth rate (CAGR), maximum drawdown (MaxDD) measured at 6-month intervals and Sharpe ratio measured at 6-month intervals as key performance statistics. As benchmarks, we consider buying and holding SPY, IWM or TLT and a 60%-40% SPY-TLT portfolio rebalanced frictionlessly at the ends of April and October (60-40). Using April and October dividend-adjusted closes of SPY, IWM, PDP, TLT and SPLV as available during October 2002 (first interval with at least one risk-on and one risk-off asset) through April 2021, and contemporaneous 6-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield as the risk-free rate, we find that: Keep Reading

Are Low Volatility Stock ETFs Working?

Are low volatility stock strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider eight of the largest low volatility ETFs, all currently available, in order of longest to shortest available histories:

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). Using monthly returns for the low volatility stock ETFs and their benchmark ETFs as available through April 2021, we find that: Keep Reading

Are IPO ETFs Working?

Are exchange-traded funds (ETF) focused on Initial Public Offerings of stocks (IPO) attractive? To investigate, we consider three of the largest IPO ETFs and one recent Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC) ETF, all currently available with moderate trading volumes, in order of longest to shortest available histories:

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). For all these ETFs, we use SPDR S&P 500 (SPY) as the benchmark. Using monthly returns for the IPO ETFs and SPY as available through March 2021, we find that:

Keep Reading

Buy Banking Crisis Dips?

Is buying assets during banking crises, when assets appear to be at deep discounts, an attractive long-run strategy? In their January 2021 paper entitled “Investing in Crises”, Matthew Baron, Luc Laeven, Julien Penasse and Yevhenii Usenko investigate asset returns across several years before and after banking crises, for which they identify the onset (first month) in three ways:

  1. Systemwide banking panics (as specified in a prior paper).
  2. Multiple major government interventions (as specified in a prior paper).
  3. 30% drop in a country’s bank stock index (bank equity crash).

They test trading strategies in which a U.S. investor exploits banking crises around the world as they occur and otherwise holds U.S. Treasury bills (T-bill). They focus on bank stock and other (non-financial) stock indexes, but also consider government bonds, currencies and residential real estate. Using monthly asset index returns in both local currencies and U.S. dollars, monthly U.S. T-bill yield, crisis starting months and economic data across 44 developed and emerging market countries during 1960 through 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Update on Classic Portfolio Allocations with Leveraged ETFs

Can investors use leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETF) as building blocks for long-term portfolios? In his January 2021 presentation package entitled “One Year Later. Leveraged ETFs in Portfolio Construction and Portfolio Protection”, Mikhail Smirnov updates multi-year performance of a monthly rebalanced partially 3X-leveraged portfolio consisting of:

  • 40% ProShares UltraPro QQQ (TQQQ)
  • 20% Direxion Daily 20+ Year Treasury Bull 3X Shares (TMF)
  • 40% iShares 20+ Year Treasury Bond ETF (TLT)

The last three years are out-of-sample with respect to specification of this portfolio. He also looks at a more conservative portfolio of 20% TQQQ and 80% TLT, rebalanced monthly. Using pre-inception simulated and actual monthly total returns for these ETFs during January 1, 2005 through January 15, 2021, he finds that: Keep Reading

Testing the Low-volatility Effect on Chinese A Shares

Does the low-risk stock anomaly hold for China A shares, dominated by local private investors rather than institutions and characterized by high volatility and herding? In their January 2021 paper entitled “The Volatility Effect in China”, David Blitz, Matthias Hanauer and Pim van Vliet examine the performance of low-volatility China A shares. At the end of each month, they rank these stocks into value-weighted tenths (deciles) based on volatility or market beta over the last 36 months. To ensure comparability to other widely studied factors, they then construct a volatility (VOL) factor following the Fama-French 2×3 factor portfolio construction method. To mitigate concerns about exploitability, they exclude micro-cap stocks and set size breakpoints using only large mid-cap stocks stocks. They calculate next-month excess total returns in U.S. dollars relative to the 1-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield. For comparison, they similarly construct and measure returns for size, value, profitability, investment and momentum factor portfolios among China A shares. Using monthly total returns and monthly accounting data for all constituents of the MSCI China A Onshore Index and the  MSCI China A Onshore Investable Market Index (about 1,200 stocks per month on average) and monthly T-bill yield during November 2000 through December 2018, they find that:

Keep Reading

Cyclical-Defensive Sector Rotation Based on VIX Level

Do differences in equity sector responses to stock market crashes (and associated volatility spikes) support an exploitably attractive sector rotation strategy? In the November 2020 update of his paper entitled “Actively Using Passive Sectors to Generate Alpha Using the VIX”, Michael Gayed examines a cyclical-defensive sector rotation strategy using the level of the CBOE S&P 500 Volatility Index (VIX) as trigger. Specifically, he iteratively favors defensive sectors (Utilities, Consumer Staples and Healthcare) when daily VIX is relatively low in anticipation of VIX increases and favors cyclical sectors (Technology, Industrials, Materials and Consumer Discretionary) to buy into high-VIX panics and benefit from VIX reversion. He considers:

  • Three allocation schemes: (1) 100% long favored sectors and 100% short unfavored sectors; (2) 100% long favored sectors; and, (3) overweighting (underweighting) favored (unfavored) sectors by 5% to form a modified S&P 500 Index.
  • Two weighting schemes for sets of defensive and cyclical sectors: (1) equal weighting, and (2) S&P 500 sector weighting.
  • Two ways of applying the Nelder-Mead method to identify daily VIX levels that trigger defensive-to-cyclical and cyclical-to-defensive switches: (1) using only the first five years (1999-2004) of the full sample, and (2) using a 5-year rolling window throughout the sample period.

Using daily levels of VIX and the S&P 500 Index and daily prices of Select Sector SPDR Exchange Traded Funds (ETF) during January 1999 through October 2020, with strategy tests starting January 2005, he finds that: Keep Reading

Using SVXY to Capture the Volatility Risk Premium

In response to “Shorting VXX with Crash Protection”, which investigates shorting iPath S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures (VXX) to capture the equity volatility risk premium, a subscriber asked about instead using a long position in ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures (SVXY). To investigate, we consider two scenarios based on monthly measurements:

  1. Buy and Hold – buying an initial amount of SVXY and letting this position ride indefinitely.
  2. Monthly Skim – buying the same initial amount of SVXY and transferring to cash any month-end gains exceeding the initial investment (the beginning-of-month SVXY position may become smaller, but not larger, than the initial investment).

The offeror changed the SVXY investment objective at the end of February 2018 (when short VIX strategies crashed), targeting henceforth -0.5 times the daily performance of the S&P 500 VIX Short-Term Futures Index rather than -1.0 times as before. We therefore examine SVXY performance separately before and after that change. We assume switching frictions of 0.25% for movements of funds from SVXY to cash in scenario 2. We assume return on cash is the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield. Using monthly split-adjusted closing prices for SVXY and contemporaneous T-bill yield during October 2011 through August 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

Are Equity Multifactor ETFs Working?

Are equity multifactor strategies, as implemented by exchange-traded funds (ETF), attractive? To investigate, we consider seven ETFs, all currently available:

  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor USA (LRGF) – holds large and mid-cap U.S. stocks with focus on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • iShares Edge MSCI Multifactor International (INTF) – holds global developed market ex U.S. large and mid-cap stocks based on quality, value, size and momentum, while maintaining a level of risk similar to that of the market.
  • Goldman Sachs ActiveBeta U.S. Large Cap Equity (GSLC) – holds large U.S. stocks based on good value, strong momentum, high quality and low volatility.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Large Cap (JHML) – holds large U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • John Hancock Multifactor Mid Cap (JHMM) – holds mid-cap U.S. stocks based on smaller capitalization, lower relative price and higher profitability, which academic research links to higher expected returns.
  • JPMorgan Diversified Return U.S. Equity (JPUS) – holds U.S. stocks based on value, quality and momentum via a risk-weighting process that lowers exposure to historically volatile sectors and stocks.
  • Xtrackers Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor (DEUS) – seeks to track, before fees and expenses, the Russell 1000 Comprehensive Factor Index, which seeks exposure to quality, value, momentum, low volatility and size factors.

We focus on monthly return statistics, along with compound annual growth rates (CAGR) and maximum drawdowns (MaxDD). We use four benchmarks according to fund descriptions: SPDR S&P 500 (SPY), iShares MSCI ACWI ex US (ACWX), SPDR S&P MidCap 400 (MDY) and iShares Russell 1000 (IWB). Using monthly returns for the seven equity multifactor ETFs and benchmarks as available through August 2020, we find that: Keep Reading

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