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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.

Back Doors in Betting Against Beta?

Do unconventional portfolio construction techniques obscure how, and how well, betting against beta (BAB) works? In their November 2018 paper entitled “Betting Against Betting Against Beta”, Robert Novy-Marx and Mihail Velikov revisit the BAB factor, focusing on interpretation of three unconventional BAB construction techniques:

  1. Rank weighting of stocks – BAB employs rank weighting rather than equal or value weighting, with each stock in high and low estimated beta portfolios weighted proportionally to the difference between its estimated beta rank and the median rank.
  2. Hedging by leveraging – BAB seeks market neutrality by deleveraging (leveraging) the high (low) beta portfolio based on estimated betas rather than borrowing to buy the market portfolio to offset BAB’s short market tilt.
  3. Novel beta estimation – BAB measures stock betas by combining market correlations based on five years of overlapping 3-day returns with volatilities based on one year of daily returns, rather than using slope coefficients of daily stock returns versus daily market returns.

Based on mathematical analysis and empirical results using returns for a broad sample of U.S. stocks during January 1968 through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Managing Asset Class Exposures with Leveraged ETFs

Are there advantages to using leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETF) to implement conventional asset class exposures? In their October 2018 paper entitled “A Portfolio of Leveraged Exchange Traded Funds”, William Trainor, Indudeep Chhachhi and Chris Brown investigate performance of diversified portfolios of 2X or 3X leveraged ETFs that limit exposures to those typically achieved with 1X ETFs. Specifically, when using 2X (3X) funds, allocations are only one half (one third) those for corresponding 1X ETFs. While this approach allows large allocations to a safe asset, it also exposes the portfolio to the higher expense ratios, internal financing costs, leverage decays and rebalancing frequencies of leveraged ETFs. The authors two strategic allocations:

  1. Actual ETFs during 2010-2017 (see the first table below) – 1X portfolio allocations are 30% U.S. large caps, 10% U.S. midcaps, 10% U.S. small caps, 10% non-U.S. developed market stocks, 10% emerging market stocks, 5% real estate investment trusts (REIT), 5% >20-year U.S. Treasuries, 5% 7-year to 10-year U.S. Treasuries and 15% aggregate corporate bonds. “Savings” from holding leveraged ETFs goes to the aggregate bond ETF, for which there are no leveraged counterparts. Rebalancing occurs whenever equities combined deviate from the specified overall levels by more than 10%.
  2. Simulated ETFs during 1946-2017 – 1X portfolio allocations are 50% S&P 500, 10% U.S. midcaps, 10% U.S. smallcaps, 15% >20-year U.S. Treasuries, 15% 7-year to 10-year U.S. Treasuries. An equal-weighted ladder of 1-year, 2-year, 5-year and 7-year U.S. Treasuries. “Savings” from holding leveraged ETFs goes to an equal-weighted ladder of 1-year, 2-year, 5-year, and 7-year treasury bonds.  Rebalancing occurs whenever equities combined deviate from the specified overall level by more than 10%.

Using daily returns for specified ETFs since 2010 and data required to simulate specified ETFs since 1946, all through December 2017, they find that: Keep Reading

Beta Across Return Measurement Intervals

Is there a distinct systematic asset risk, as measured by its market beta, associated with each return measurement interval (frequency, such as daily, monthly or annually)? In other words, is return measurement frequency a risk factor? In their October 2018 paper entitled “Measuring Horizon-Specific Systematic Risk via Spectral Betas”, Federico Bandi, Shomesh Chaudhuri, Andrew Lo and Andrea Tamoni  introduce spectral beta, an asset’s market beta for a given return measurement frequency, as a way to assess this frequency as a source of systematic investment risk. They specify how to combine spectral betas into an overall beta and explore ways to interpret and exploit spectral betas. Using mathematical derivations and samples of monthly and daily returns for broad samples of U.S. stocks and stock portfolios, they find that: Keep Reading

Separate vs. Integrated Equity Factor Portfolios

What is the best way to construct equity multifactor portfolios? In the November 2018 revision of their paper entitled “Equity Multi-Factor Approaches: Sum of Factors vs. Multi-Factor Ranking”, Farouk Jivraj, David Haefliger, Zein Khan and Benedict Redmond compare two approaches for forming long-only equity multifactor portfolios. They first specify ranking rules for four equity factors: value, momentum, low volatility and quality. They then, each month:

  • Sum of factor portfolios (SoF): For each factor, rank all stocks and form a factor portfolio of the equally weighted top 50 stocks (adjusted to prevent more than 20% exposure to any sector). Then form a multifactor portfolio by equally weighting the four factor portfolios.
  • Multifactor ranking (MFR): Rank all stocks by each factor, average the ranks for each stock and form an equally weighted portfolio of those stocks with the highest average ranks, equal in number of stocks to the SoF portfolio (again adjusted to prevent more than 20% exposure to any sector).

They consider variations in number of stocks selected for individual factor portfolios from 25 to 200, with comparable adjustments to the MFR portfolio. They assume trading frictions of 0.05% of turnover. Using monthly data required to rank the specified factors for a broad sample of U.S. common stocks and monthly returns for those stocks and the S&P 500 Total Return Index (S&P 500 TR) during January 2003 through July 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Leveraged ETF Pairs Performance

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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U.S. Stock Market Returns after Extreme Up and Down Days

What happens after extreme up days or extreme down days for the U.S. stock market? To investigate, we define extreme up or down days as those with daily returns at least X standard deviations above or below the mean (average) return over the past four years (the U.S. political cycle, about 1,000 trading days). This methodology allows identification of extreme days starting in January 1954. Focusing on three standard deviations, we then look at average returns and return variabilities over the next 63 trading days (three months). Using daily closes for the S&P 500 Index during January 1950 through late October 2018, we find that:

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Evolution of Quantitative Stock Investing

Quantitative investing involves disciplined rule-based approaches to help investors structure optimal portfolios that balance return and risk. How has such investing evolved? In their June 2018 paper entitled “The Current State of Quantitative Equity Investing”, Ying Becker and Marc Reinganum summarize key developments in the history of quantitative equity investing. Based on the body of research, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Downside Risk Premiums

Does focusing on downside risk (volatility or beta) consistently produce more accurate forecasts of asset returns? In their July 2018 paper entitled “Tail Risk in the Cross Section of Alternative Risk Premium Strategies”, Bernd Scherer and Nick Baltas investigate how well downside risk explains cross-sectional returns of 260 risk factor strategies spanning asset classes and investment styles from six global investment banks. Their main model is a two-pass regression that distinguishes between conventional market beta and market downside beta. For corroboration, they consider four other indicators of downside risk (return skewness, correlation of tail returns with equity market returns, TED spread and economic policy uncertainty as measured by relative VIX level). Using weekly data risk factor returns and downside risk indicators during February 2008 through January 2018, they find that: Keep Reading

Betting Against Beta, Plus Market Momentum

betting against beta (BAB) portfolio is long low-beta assets and short high-beta assets, with each side leveraged to a beta of one. Do strong past stock market returns (when investors tend to overweight high-beta stocks) predict an increase in BAB returns? In his June 2018 paper entitled “Time-Varying Leverage Demand and Predictability of Betting-Against-Beta”, Esben Hedegaard tests the prediction that BAB performs better in times and in countries after high past stock market returns in three ways: (1) regression of BAB returns versus past market returns; (2) sorts of BAB returns into fifths (quintiles) based on past market returns; and, (3) a timing strategy that is long BAB half the time and short BAB half the time based on detrended inception-to-date past market returns, scaled to 10% annualized volatility for comparability. Using daily and monthly data, including monthly BAB returns, for U.S. common stocks and the U.S. stock market since 1931 and for 23 other countries from as early as 1988, all through January 2018, he finds that: Keep Reading

Benefits of Volatility Targeting Across Asset Classes

Does volatility targeting improve Sharpe ratios and provide crash protection across asset classes? In their May 2018 paper entitled “Working Your Tail Off: The Impact of Volatility Targeting”, Campbell Harvey, Edward Hoyle, Russell Korgaonkar, Sandy Rattray, Matthew Sargaison, and Otto Van Hemert examine return and risk effects of long-only volatility targeting, which scales asset and/or portfolio exposure higher (lower) when its recent volatility is low (high). They consider over 60 assets spanning stocks, bonds, credit, commodities and currencies and two multi-asset portfolios (60-40 stocks-bonds and 25-25-25-25 stocks-bonds-credit-commodities). They focus on excess returns (relative to U.S. Treasury bill yield). They forecast volatility using realized daily volatility with exponentially decaying weights of varying half-lives to assess sensitivity to the recency of inputs. For most analyses, they employ daily return data to forecast volatility. For S&P 500 Index and 10-year U.S. Treasury note (T-note) futures, they also test high-frequency (5-minute) returns transformed to daily returns. They scale asset exposure inversely to forecasted volatility known 24 hours in advance, applying a retroactively determined constant that generates 10% annualized actual volatility to facilitate comparison across assets and sample periods. Using daily returns for U.S. stocks and industries since 1927, for U.S. bonds (estimated from yields) since 1962, for a credit index and an array of futures/forwards since 1988, and high-frequency returns for S&P 500 Index and 10-year U.S. Treasury note futures since 1988, all through 2017, they find that:

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