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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.

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:

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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

When Institutional Investors Seek Safety

How do mutual funds and hedge funds change their stock holdings in response to a sharp market crash? In their July 2020 paper entitled “Where Do Institutional Investors Seek Shelter when Disaster Strikes? Evidence from COVID-19”, Simon Glossner, Pedro Matos, Stefano Ramelli and Alexander Wagner analyze changes in institutional and retail stock holdings during the first quarter of 2020. Using a February-March 2020 snapshot of returns and firm accounting data for non-financial stocks in the Russell 3000 Index, institutional holdings of these stocks as percentages of shares outstanding during the fourth quarter of 2018 through the first quarter of 2020, and number of Robinhood clients (representing retail investors) holding these stocks on December 31, 2019 and March 31, 2020, they find that:

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Effectiveness of Various Risk Controls during the COVID-19 Crash

How well did previously identified portfolio risk management strategies work during the COVID-19 market crash? In their July 2020 paper entitled “Strategic Risk Management: Out-of-Sample Evidence from the COVID-19 Equity Selloff”, Campbell Harvey, Edward Hoyle, Sandy Rattray and Otto Van Hemert extended analyses of risk management strategies they identified in a 2016-2019 series of papers with an out-of-sample test of the February-March 2020 stock market sell-off. These strategies include:

  • Long put options, short credit risk, long bonds or long gold.
  • Trend following based on time series/intrinsic momentum (past return divided by volatility of returns over a specified lookback interval) or on moving average crossovers.
  • Holding defensive stocks (based on profitability, payout, growth, safety or quality).
  • Volatility targeting (increasing/decreasing exposure when past volatility is relative low/high).
  • Rebalancing a stocks-bonds portfolio only half way and only when recent (1, 3 or 12 months) portfolio return is above its historical average.

Extending analyses from their prior papers through March 2020 to capture the COVID-19 crash, they find that:

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The BGSV Portfolio

How might an investor construct a portfolio of very risky assets? To investigate, we consider:

  • First, diversifying with monthly rebalancing of:
    1. Bitcoin Investment Trust (GBTC), representing a very long-term option on Bitcoins.
    2. VanEck Vectors Junior Gold Miners ETF (GDXJ), representing a very long-term option on gold.
    3. ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures (SVXY), to capture part of the U.S. stock market volatility risk premium by shorting short-term S&P 500 Index implied volatility (VIX) futures. SVXY has a change in investment objective at the end of February 2018 (see “Using SVXY to Capture the Volatility Risk Premium”).
  • Second, capturing upside volatility and managing drawdown of this portfolio via gain-skimming to a cash position.

We assume equal initial allocations of $10,000 to each of the three risky assets. We execute a monthly skim as follows: (1) if the risky assets have month-end combined value less than combined initial allocations ($30,000), we rebalance to equal weights for next month; or, (2) if the risky assets have combined month-end value greater than combined initial allocations, we rebalance to initial allocations and move the excess permanently (skim) to cash. We conservatively assume monthly portfolio reformation frictions of 1% of month-end combined value of risky assets. We assume accrued skimmed cash earns the 3-month U.S. Treasury bill (T-bill) yield. Using monthly prices of GBTC, GDXJ and SVXY adjusted for splits and dividends and contemporaneous T-bill yield during May 2015 (limited by GBTC) through June 2019, we find that:

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Safe Haven Benchmark Index

How should investors evaluate the effectiveness of a safe haven asset? In their July 2020 paper entitled “A Safe Haven Index”, Dirk Baur and Thomas Dimpfl devise and apply a safe haven index (SHI) to evaluate over 20 individual potential safe haven assets. SHI consists of seven equal-weighted assets: gold, Swiss franc, Japanese yen, 2-year, 10-year and 30-year U.S. Treasuries and 10-year German government bonds. For evaluations, they focus on four safe haven events: the October 1987 stock market crash, the September 2001 terrorist attacks, the September 2008 Lehman collapse and the March 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Using daily data for index components and other potential safe haven assets as available during January 1985 through May 2020, they find that:

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