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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.

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Option-implied Correlation as Stock Market Return Predictor

Does option-implied correlation, a measure of the expected average correlation between a stock index and its components over a specified horizon, predict stock market behavior? In their January 2017 paper entitled “Option-Implied Correlations, Factor Models, and Market Risk”, Adrian Buss, Lorenzo Schoenleber and Grigory Vilkov examine option-implied correlation as a stock market return predictor. They consider expected average correlations between:

  • Major U.S. stock indexes (S&P 500, S&P 100 and Dow Jones Industrial Average) and their respective component stocks.
  • Major U.S. stock indexes the nine Select Sector SPDR exchange-traded funds (ETF).
  • The nine Select Sector SPDR ETFs and their respective component stocks.

They calculate a correlation risk premium (CRP) as the implied average correlation minus realized average correlation measured over the past month, quarter or year. For comparison, they also calculate variance risk premium (VRP) as the difference between option-implied and realized return variances. Using daily returns for the specified indexes and ETFs (and component stocks of all) and for associated near-the-money options with 30, 91 and 365 days to maturity since January 1996 for S&P 500 and S&P 100 index, since October 1997 for DJIA and since mid-December 1998 for sector ETFs, all through August 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

Betting Against Correlation

What drives the low-risk stock return anomaly, wherein low-risk stocks outperform high-risk stocks (contrary to a reward-for-risk view)? In their February 2017 paper entitled “Betting Against Correlation: Testing Theories of the Low-Risk Effect”, Clifford Asness, Andrea Frazzini, Niels Gormsen and Lasse Pedersen investigate several ways to select low-risk stocks and infer from findings what drives low-risk outperformance as represented by the Betting Against Beta (BAB) strategy that is long low-beta stocks and short high-beta stocks. Specifically, they consider the following stock sorting selection methods:

  • Betting Against Correlation (BAC) – each month: (1) rank stocks into fifths (quintiles) based on volatility; (2) within each volatility quintile, sort stocks into low-correlation and high-correlation halves weighted by correlation rank such that lower correlation stocks have larger weights in low-correlation half and larger correlation stocks have larger weights in the high-correlation half; (3) weight all halves to have market beta one; (4) within each volatility quintile, form a hedge portfolio that is long (short) the low-correlation (high-correlation) half; and (5) compute the BAC factor return as the equal-weighted average of the five hedge portfolio returns.
  • Betting Against Volatility (BAV) – similar to BAC, but switching the order and uses of correlation and volatility sorts.
  • Low MAX (LMAX) – each month, form a value-weighted portfolio that is long (short) the value-weighted large-capitalization and small-capitalization stocks with the lowest (highest) averages of the five highest daily returns over the last month.
  • Scaled MAX (SMAX) – same as LMAX, but adjusted for volatility, using ratios of average of the five highest daily returns over the last month divided by respective volatility over the last month.
  • Idiosyncratic Volatility (IVOL) – each month, regress each firm’s daily stock returns over the given month on the daily returns to the market, size and book-to-market factors. IVOL is the residual volatility of this regression (unexplained by factor betas).

They decompose BAB into correlation (BAC) and volatility (BAV) components to distinguish between financial (leverage constraints, swaying institutional investors away from low-beta stocks) and behavioral (return-chasing) forces, respectively. They then compare BAC and SMAX outputs to distinguish between financial and lottery-preference explanations. Using data as available for the U.S. since January 1926 and for 23 other countries since July 1990, all through December 2015, they find that: Keep Reading

ETFs for Harvesting Factor Premiums

Are there plenty of exchange-traded funds (ETF) offering positive or negative exposures to widely accepted factor premiums? In his February 2017 paper entitled “Are Exchange-Traded Funds Harvesting Factor Premiums?”, David Blitz analyzes the exposures of U.S. equity ETFs to market, size, value, momentum and volatility factors. Specifically, he calculates factor betas (exposures) from a multi-factor regression of monthly excess (relative to the risk-free rate) total returns for each ETF versus market, small-minus-big size (SMB), high-minus-low value (HML), winners-minus-losers momentum (WML) and low-minus-high volatility (LV-HV) factor returns during 2011 through 2015. His overall sample consists of 415 U.S. equity ETFs with least 36 months of return history as of the end of 2015. He also considers subsamples consisting of: (1) 103 smart beta ETFs that explicitly target factor premiums, including fundamentally weighted and high-dividend funds; and, (2) the remaining 312 conventional ETFs, including sector funds and funds with conflicting factor exposures. He includes lists of the 10 ETFs with the most positive and the 10 ETFs with the most negative exposures to each factor from among the 100 largest ETFs. Using monthly Assets under Management (AuM) and total returns for the specified 415 ETFs, along with the monthly risk-free rate and the selected factor premiums during January 2011 through December 2015, he finds that: Keep Reading

Simple, Practical Test of VRP as IEF Return Predictor

“Equity Market and Treasuries Variance Risk Premiums as Return Predictors” reports a finding, among others, that the variance risk premium for 10-year U.S. Treasury notes (T-note) predicts near-term returns for those notes (as manifested via futures). However, the methods used to calculate the variance risk premium are complex. Is there a simple way to exploit the predictive power found? To investigate, we test whether a simple measure of the volatility risk premium (VRP) for T-notes predicts returns for the iShares 7-10 Year Treasury Bond (IEF) exchange-traded fund. Specifically we:

  • Calculate daily realized volatility of IEF as the standard deviation of daily total returns over the past 21 trading days, multiplied by the square root of 252 to annualize.
  • Use daily closes of CBOE/CBOT 10-year U.S. Treasury Note Volatility Index (TYVIX) as annualized implied volatility.
  • Calculate the daily T-note VRP as TYVIX minus IEF realized volatility.

VRP here differs from that in the referenced research in three ways: (1) it is a volatility premium rather than a variance premium based on standard deviation rather than the square of standard deviation; (2) it is implied volatility minus expected realized volatility, rather than the reverse, and so should be mostly positive; and, (3) estimation of expected realized volatility is much simpler. When TYVIX has daily closes on non-market days, we ignore those closes. When TYVIX does not have daily closes on market days, we reuse the most recent value of TYVIX. These exceptions are rare. Using daily IEF dividend-adjusted prices since December 2002 and daily closes of TYVIX since January 2003 (earliest available), both through January 2017, we find that: Keep Reading

Equity Market and Treasuries Variance Risk Premiums as Return Predictors

Do bonds, like equity markets, offer a variance risk premium (VRP)? If so, does the bond VRP predict bond returns? In their January 2017 paper entitled “Variance Risk Premia on Stocks and Bonds”, Philippe Mueller, Petar Sabtchevsky, Andrea Vedolin and Paul Whelan examine and compare the equity VRP (EVRP) via the S&P 500 Index and U.S. Treasuries VRP (TVRP) via 5-year, 10-year and 30-year U.S. Treasuries. They specify VRP generally as the difference between the variance indicated by past values of variance (realized) and that indicated by current option prices (implied). Their VRP calculation involves:

  • To forecast daily realized variances at a one-month horizon, they first calculate high-frequency returns from intra-day price data of rolling futures series for each of 5-year, 10-year and 30-year Treasury notes and bonds and for the S&P 500 Index. They then apply a fairly complex regression model that manipulates squared inception-to-date returns (at least one year) and accounts for the effect of return jumps. 
  • To calculate daily implied variances for Treasuries at a one-month horizon, they employ end-of-day prices on cross-sections of options on Treasury futures. For the S&P 500 Index, they use the square of VIX.
  • To calculate daily EVRP and TVRPs with one-month horizons, subtract respective implied variances from forecasted realized variances.

When relating VRPs to future returns for both Treasuries and the S&P 500 Index, they calculate returns from fully collateralized futures positions. Using the specified futures, index and options data during July 1990 through December 2014, they find that: Keep Reading

Suppressing Unrelated Risks from Stock Factor Portfolios

Does suppressing unrelated risks from stock factor portfolios improve performance? In their January 2017 paper entitled “Diversify and Purify Factor Premiums in Equity Markets”, Raul Leote de Carvalho, Lu Xiao, François Soupé and Patrick Dugnolle investigate how to improve the capture of four types of stock factor premiums: value (12 measures); quality (16 measures); low-risk (two measures); and, momentum (10 measures). They standardize the different factor measurement scales based on respective medians and standard deviations, and they discard outliers. Their baseline factors portfolios employ constant leverage (CL) by each month taking 100% long (100% short) positions in stocks with factor values associated with the highest (lowest) expected returns. They strip unrelated risks from baseline portfolios by:

  • SN – imposing sector neutrality by segregating stocks into 10 sectors before ranking them for assignment to long and short sides of the factor portfolio. 
  • CV – replacing constant leverage by each month weighting each stock in the portfolio to target a specified volatility based on its actual volatility over the past three years.
  • HB – hedging the market beta of the portfolio each month based on market betas of individual stocks calculated over the past three years by taking positions in the capitalization-weighted market portfolio and cash.
  • HS – hedging the size beta of the portfolio each month based on size betas of individual stocks calculated over the past three years by taking positions in the equal-weighted market portfolio and the capitalization-weighted market portfolio.

They examine effects of combining measures within factor types, combining types of factors and excluding short sides of factor portfolios. They also look at U.S., Europe and Japan separately. Their portfolio performance metric is the information ratio, annualized average return divided by annualized standard deviation of returns. Using data for stocks in the MSCI World Index since January 1997, in the S&P 500 Index since January 1990, in the STOXX Europe 600 Index since January 1992 and in the Japan Topix 500 Index since August 1993, all through November 2016, they find that: Keep Reading

Intraday and Intraweek VIX Behaviors

Does the S&P 500 implied volatility index (VIX) exhibit reliable intraday and day-of-week patterns? In their December 2016 paper entitled “The Intraday Properties of the VIX and the VXO”, Adrian Fernandez-Perez, Bart Frijns, Alireza Tourani-Rad and Robert Webb investigate daily and intraday properties of VIX and its predecessor, the S&P 100 implied volatility index (VXO). VIX maintains constant 30-day maturity at a one-minute frequency, while VXO maintains a constant 30-day maturity on a daily basis. Using one-minute levels of VIX and VXO from 9:30 until 16:15 EST and of the S&P 500 Index from 9:30 to 16:00 EST during September 22, 2003 (introduction of VIX) through December 31, 2013, they find that: Keep Reading

How Much to Risk?

How should investors balance expected return and expected risk in allocating between risky and risk-free assets? In their short December 2016 paper entitled “Optimal Trade Sizing in a Game with Favourable Odds: The Stock Market”, Victor Haghani and Andrew Morton apply a simple rule of thumb related to mean-variance optimization to estimate the optimal allocation to risky assets. They also note several implications of this rule. Based on assumptions about investor motivation and straightforward mathematics, they conclude that: Keep Reading

Market Volatility as Crisis Predictor

Do equity market volatility behaviors predict financial crises? In their October 2016 paper entitled “Learning from History: Volatility and Financial Crises”, Jon Danielsson, Marcela Valenzuela and Ilknur Zer investigate linkages among  stock market volatility, risk-taking and financial market crises over the very long run. Their volatility measurement methodology is:

  1. Measure volatility annually as standard deviation of 12 monthly returns (July through June).
  2. Determine the volatility trend via an annually iterated Hodrick-Prescott filter applied to historical volatility data (focusing on smoothing factor 5000, but considering other values).
  3. Calculate relatively high and low volatility as deviations of volatility above and below trend, respectively (see the chart below).

Their stock market return sample covers 60 countries and spans 211 years, with an average 62 years per country (with U.S. and UK the longest subsamples). They discard a few extreme observations and adjust returns for inflation using local consumer prices indexes. Their crisis measurement is a binary indicator of whether one of 262 identified banking crises occurs in a given year and country. They focus on five-year regressions to assess volatility-crisis relationships, but consider other intervals. They consider Gross Domestic Product per capita, inflation, change in government debt and institutional quality (political freedom) as control variables. Using monthly data as specified and available during 1800 through 2010, they find that: Keep Reading

VIX and VXX Behaviors Around Holidays

Does the S&P 500 implied volatility index (VIX) exhibit predictable behaviors around holidays? If so, is the predictability exploitable? To check, we look at percentage changes in VIX from three trading days before to three trading days after the following annual holidays: New Year’s Day, Super Bowl, Good Friday, Memorial Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas. To test exploitability, we employ iPath S&P 500 VIX ST Futures ETN (VXX), exchange-traded notes that hold short-term VIX futures. Using daily closes of VIX and VXX from their respective inceptions (January 1990 and February 2009) through November 2016 (214 and 62 holidays), we find that: Keep Reading

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