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Leveraged ETF Pairs Performance

Posted in Volatility Effects

Are there long-term positions in leveraged index exchange-traded funds (ETF) that beat buying and holding the underlying index? In his October 2018 paper entitled "Leveraged ETF Pairs: An Empirical Evaluation of Portfolio Performance", Stanley Peterburgsky examines the performance of simple strategies involving leveraged and inverse leveraged ETFs. Specifically, he tests whether the following leveraged ETF portfolios are likely to outperform underlying total return indexes:

  1. A long position in SSO or UPRO, compared to the S&P 500 Index.
  2. 1/3 short UPRO (URTY) and 2/3 short SPXU (SRTY), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.
  3. 1/4 short SSO (UWM) and 3/4 short SDS (TWM), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.
  4. Short SH (RWM), compared to the S&P 500 (Russell 2000) Index.

All short positions have matching long positions in 1-month U.S. Treasury bills that drive some trading. For example, at the end of each trading day, if the UPRO/SRTY portfolio value is less than 90% (more than 110%) of the short balance, the strategy buys (shorts additional) shares of UPRO and SPXU in equal proportions to restore long-short balance. In addition, strategies 2 and 3 require occasional rebalancing of ETF pairs. Baseline strategies allows pair members to drift up to 20% apart before rebalancing. Sensitivity tests evaluate effects of tightening the rebalancing threshold to 10%. Key performance metrics are average annualized return, average annualized standard deviation of daily returns and average annualized Sharpe ratio. Using daily total returns for the specified leveraged ETFs and underlying indexes during 2010 (2/9/2010 for Russell 2000-based funds) through 2016, he finds that:

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