Tail Risk in Term Structure Based Strategies in Commodities Saturday, 21 October, 2017

A new financial research paper related to:

#22 - Term Structure Effect in Commodities

Authors: Bianchi

Title: Carry Trades and Tail Risk: Evidence from Commodity Markets

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3035453

Abstract:

In this paper I document that carry trades in commodity markets are subject to potential large and infrequent losses, that is, tail risk. Also, I show that shocks to carry trades and volatility have persistent tail-specific effects which last from four to twelve weeks ahead. The main empirical results are consistent with existing theoretical models in which carry traders are subject to limited risk capacity and liquidity constraints. In this respect, I provide evidence that money managers, index traders, and more generally non-commercial traders, tend to unwind their net-long futures positions when exposed to deteriorating aggregate financial conditions and increasing market uncertainty. Methodologically, I make use of panel quantile regressions with non-additive fixed effects, which allow to identify the tail-specific effect of carry on the conditional distribution of commodity futures excess returns.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"Carry can be defined as the component of a position’s returns that comes from something other than spot price changes. In the case of currencies, where the concept of carry is more familiar, carry trades arise from the differential of interest rates between foreign and domestic currencies. In equity and fixed income carry can be thought of as the dividend yield and the coupon payment which is earned regardless changes in the bond prices, respectively. Similarly, commodity investors can earn returns even with constant spot prices as the futures contract they are holding rolls down (or up) the futures price curve.

However, there are at least three reasons why carry is even more important for commodities compared with other asset classes.

First, while bond and equity carry are mostly positive, commodity carry, like currencies, can be either negative or positive depending on the shape of the futures curve. Backwardated (negative-sloping) curves imply positive carry because if the spot price do not change than the futures contract is expected to roll up the futures price curve over time. In this respect, the roll yield is expected to more than cancel out the effect of flat, or even slightly negative, spot returns.

Second, commodity carry can be highly volatile relative to other asset classes. Carry of energy commodities such as Crude oil and Copper, and agricultural, such as Wheat, has clusters of high volatility and frequently switches sign. Dividend yield for equity, coupon payments in bond markets, and interest rates differentials are arguably much less volatile.

Third, commodity carry can be extreme and be quite heterogeneous across sectors, especially on the long side of the trade. Carry trades, on average across commodities, has positive skewness, that is, carry tends to be extreme and trades are more likely to be net long than net short.

The high volatility and instability is possibly due to the fact that, unlike fixed income and currencies, commodity markets do not have a dependable “BearWhale” like a central bank that is prepared to buy commodity assets at any resort and in the process manipulate forward expectations. In this respect, unlike fixed income and currencies, carry in commodities can hardly be stabilized by regulators and policy makers alike.

In this paper, I investigate tail risk for funding-constrained speculators in commodity markets, in an attempt to shed new light on the importance of commodities as an asset class for investment decisions. The empirical analysis focuses on commodities spanning the energy, metals (industrial and precious) and agricultural sectors. For each of these commodities, I calculate excess returns using a rolling strategy on both first- and second-nearby contracts, which represent the most liquid maturities. To compute the carry, I consider the slope between the nearest-to-maturity contract and the next-to-nearest available futures contract on the same commodity, depending on the maturity of the excess returns.

The results show that carry trades are significantly negatively correlated with the left tail of the conditional distribution of one step ahead futures excess returns, that is carry trades are subject to a significant tail risk.

Although with a lower statistically significance, the net long futures positions of money managers and non-commercial traders more generally, are positively correlated with carry in the crosssection, consistent with the idea that futures positions by speculators might represent a proxy for their propensity on carry trades. These findings are consistent with existing theories of financing constraints and preferences for skewed returns.

These financing constraints are likely to be particularly important during downturns in financial conditions and aggregate liquidity when speculators, insurance providers and more generally non-commercial traders face capital losses and increasing margin calls.

I test the direct effect of global risk and financial dislocations by investigating the interaction between carry trades and the implied volatility of S&P500 options, i.e. the VIX, the Financial Stress Index maintained by the St. Louis Fed and the National Financial Conditions Index held by the Chicago Fed. The empirical evidence shows a significant negative correlation between deteriorating aggregate financial conditions and speculators’ positions, that is carry traders tend to unwind their net long positions when facing increasing global risk and possibly lower risk tolerance.

Finally, I make use of local projection methods as indicated by Jord`a (2005) to document the average longer-term effect of shocks to carry, futures positions and volatility, on tail risk by estimating aggregate impulse responses. I show that the effect of carry trades is highly significant in the left tails of the distribution of excess returns up to several weeks ahead. Similarly, I show that a one unit shock to speculators’ futures positions does not affect tail risk, while on the opposite shocks to contidional volatility have a persistent effect on tail risk up to three months ahead."


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How to Predict FX Carry Profitability Friday, 13 October, 2017

A new financial research paper related to:

#5 - FX Carry Trade

Authors: Anatolyev, Gospodinov, Jamali, Liu

Title: Foreign Exchange Predictability During the Financial Crisis: Implications for Carry Trade Profitability

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3029725

Abstract:

In this paper, we study the effectiveness of carry trade strategies during and after the financial crisis using a flexible approach to modeling currency returns. We decompose the currency returns into multiplicative sign and absolute return components, which exhibit much greater predictability than raw returns. We allow the two components to respond to currency-specific risk factors and use the joint conditional distribution of these components to obtain forecasts of future carry trade returns. Our results suggest that the decomposition model produces higher forecast and directional accuracy than any of the competing models. We show that the forecasting gains translate into economically and statistically significant (risk-adjusted) profitability when trading individual currencies or forming currency portfolios based on the predicted returns from the decomposition model.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"The most signi…ficant departure from the lack of predictability of exchange rates has been documented in the carry trade literature. In a carry trade, an investor borrows in a low-interest currency and invests the borrowed funds in a high-yielding currency. A number of possible explanations have been advanced to account for the positive average returns of carry trade. In a classical asset pricing context, the positive average returns should refl‡ect compensation for bearing a (possibly time-varying) risk premium.

In this paper, we adopt a statistical approach to uncovering and exploiting potential predictability in carry trade returns during and after the recent U.S. …financial crisis. More specifically, we capitalize on the method proposed by Anatolyev and Gospodinov (2010) to decompose currency returns into two multiplicative components (sign and absolute returns) that individually exhibit much greater predictability than raw returns. We then model the joint conditional distribution of these components and use it to produce forecasts of future returns. We allow the two components to respond to currency-specifi…c risk factors such as speculative pressure. This method of incorporating
any implicit nonlinearities in a ‡flexible, indirect fashion is motivated by:
(i) the limited success of linear asset pricing models in explaining carry trade returns
(ii) prior empirical evidence pointing to a statistically and economically signi…ficant element of nonlinear out-of-sample predictability in foreign exchange markets especially at long horizons
(iii) the pro…tability of trading based on the decomposition model of Anatolyev and Gospodinov (2010) for equity returns.

Several interesting results emerge from our analysis.

- First, the decomposition model exhibits substantial directional accuracy in predicting carry trade returns during the recent …financial crisis.
- Second, the out-of-sample forecasting gains of the decomposition model (relative to the naïve historical mean and linear prediction models) translate into economically and statistically highly signi…ficant profi…tability.

We view the uncovered nonlinear predictability as a possible explanation of the limited success of linear asset pricing models in the context of currency markets. Note that the carry trade returns consist of two parts –future currency returns and interest rate differential –and while the pure carry trade strategies exploit only the differential in interest rates, both of which are near the zero lower bound over this period, we employ a model-based carry trade strategy that capitalizes on the predictability of currency returns. We allow the two components (multiplicative sign and absolute return components) to respond to currency-speci…c risk factors and use the joint conditional distribution of these components, modeled as a time-varying copula, to produce forecasts of future returns.

"


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Suggestion of a New Currency Factor Model Tuesday, 3 October, 2017

A new research paper related to multiple currency strategies:

Authors: Aloosh, Bekaert

Title: Currency Factors

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3022623

Abstract:

We examine the ability of existing and new factor models to explain the comovements of G10-currency changes. Extant currency factors include the carry, volatility, value, and momentum factors. Using a new clustering technique, we find a clear two-block structure in currency comovements with the first block containing mostly the dollar currencies, and the other the European currencies. A factor model incorporating this “clustering” factor and two additional factors, a commodity currency factor and a “world” factor based on trading volumes, fits all bilateral exchange rates well, whatever the currency perspective. In particular, it explains on average about 60% of currency variation and generates a root mean squared error relative to sample correlations of only 0.11. The model also explains a considerable fraction of the variation in emerging market currencies.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"In this paper, we set out to examine various factor models to explain currency comovements and document their fit with the data from a global perspective. That is, we attempt to identify a factor model that works well whatever the currency perspective is. To facilitate a global perspective on currency comovements, we introduce the concept of a “currency basket.” The currency basket simply averages all bilateral currency changes relative to one particular currency. As we show formally, by analyzing 10 currency baskets for the G10 currencies, we span all possible bilateral currency movements. We then contrast the explanatory power of the extant risk factors mentioned previously with the explanatory power of various new factors.

Most importantly, we use a new clustering technique to introduce several new currency factors. When selecting two clusters, a very clear factor structure emerges, with the dollar currencies (Australian, Canadian, New Zealand and US) and the Japanese yen in one block and the European currencies in the other. When using three clusters, a commodity type currency factor also emerges. Combining these statistical factors with a “market” factor, based on currency trading volumes, and a commodity currency factor, we propose several parsimonious factor models and run a horse race versus models incorporating the existing factors.

Among the extant currency factors, the carry and value factors exhibit the highest explanatory power for currency variation. This is not surprising because both factors are relatively highly correlated with the first principal component in bilateral currency rates. However, a new parsimonious factor model incorporating the two-block clustering factor, a commodity factor and the market factor easily beats factor models created from extant risk factors, even models that feature double as many factors. The new factor model explains on average about 60% of the variation in changes in currency basket values. Moreover, the Root Mean Squared Error (RMSE) relative to sample correlations is only about 0.11, which is statistically significantly better than any model based on extant risk factors."
 



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Craftsmanship Alpha Thursday, 28 September, 2017

An interesting paper about the artistry in a building of multi-factor portfolios:

Authors: Israel, Jiang, Ross

Title: Craftsmanship Alpha: An Application to Style Investing

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3034472

Abstract:

Successful investing requires translating sound investment concepts into actual trading strategies. We study many of the implementation details that portfolio managers need to pay attention to; such choices range from portfolio construction to execution. While these kinds of decisions apply to any type of investment strategy, they are particularly important in the context of style investing. Consider two managers who both intend to capture the value factor in a long/short context: each manager might make a number of decisions, many of which can lead to meaningfully different outcomes. These choices can often explain why one value manager outperforms another. Ultimately, what may seem like inconsequential design decisions can actually matter a lot for style portfolios. In fact, the skillful targeting and capturing of style premia may constitute a form of alpha on its own — one we refer to as “craftsmanship alpha.”

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"Style premia are a set of systematic sources of returns that are well researched and have been shown to deliver longrun returns that are uncorrelated with traditional assets. Styles have been most widely studied in U.S. equity markets, but have been shown to work consistently across markets, across geographies, and over time. There are variations in the types of style portfolios, but also — importantly — in how different managers choose to build those portfolios. While practitioners might define styles with similar “labels,” actual portfolios can differ significantly from one another.

Our paper focuses on the craftsmanship required to build effective style portfolios. That is, the kind of decisions that happen after we have already agreed on the type of style portfolio that we want to build.

We start with a brief discussion of the types of style portfolios an investor may choose; we then go into more detail on design decisions related to building style portfolios; and finally, we address other considerations for style investing, such as trading and risk management. We will share our thoughts on a number of enhancements that can be made without deviating from the main thesis . While many of these enhancements reflect our opinions on better ways to build portfolios, the main point is that these choices need to be made consciously. Certain design choices may improve the risk/return characteristics of the overall portfolio, by enhancing returns, reducing risk, or a combination of both. We call the sources of alpha that involve implementation choices “craftsmanship alpha.”

Topics:

1. What Kind of Style Portfolio?
2. How to Build Style Portfolios?
  2.1. Smarter Style Measures
  2.2. Multiple Style Measures
  2.3. Stock Selection and Weighting Schemes
  2.4. Unintended Risks
  2.5. Volatility Targeting
  2.6. Integrating Styles in a Multi-Style Portfolio
  2.7. Strategic or Tactical
3. How To Execute Style Portfolios?
   3.1. Portfolio Implementation
   3.2. Cost-Effective Execution
   3.3. Risk Management
4. Conclusion
"


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Global Diversification Works for Multi-Factor Portfolios Sunday, 24 September, 2017

If an investor wants to build multi-factor portfolio then he should look around and build a diversified global portfolio:

Authors: Binstock, Kose, Mazzoleni

Title: Diversification Strikes Again: Evidence from Global Equity Factors

Link: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3036423

Abstract:

The benefits of country diversification are well established. This article shows that the same benefits extend to equity factors, such as value, size, momentum, investment, and profitability. Specifically, country factor portfolios reflect both common variation, which we define as the global factor, and local variation. On average, a US investor could enjoy a 30% reduction in portfolio volatility by investing globally. We also document three other properties of equity factors. Like major asset classes, greater market integration is associated with greater factor co-movement, and factor portfolios of different countries tend to be more correlated during bear stock markets. However, unlike asset classes, the correlations of factor portfolios across countries have not been increasing over the last two decades, making global equity factors a particularly desirable addition to a portfolio.

Notable quotations from the academic research paper:

"In this paper, we bring the insights of geographic diversification to cross-sectional equities. We study the returns of long-short portfolios across developed countries based on six factors: market, value, size, momentum, investment, and profitability.

Our international equity factor analysis offers three novel insights.

First, by diversifying an equity strategy across developed markets, investors can significantly reduce the volatility of their factor portfolio. Even for a U.S. investor, who has access to a large domestic market, the volatility reduction across the factors is estimated up to 30%. Indeed, country factor portfolios reflect common variation, which we identify as the global factor, and “local” volatility. A global factor has a simple interpretation as the average world excess returns and tends to explain the individual strategies’ alpha. The local component reflects potentially uncompensated risk, which can be diversified away by simply investing across national markets.

Our second insight shows that factor strategies tend to be more correlated across more integrated countries. For instance, the correlation between the US and the UK stock markets is markedly higher than the correlation between the Japanese and UK markets. We find that these associations also extend to factor portfolios. Accordingly, the momentum strategies in the US and the UK markets are notably more correlated than the momentum strategies in the Japanese and UK markets.

Our last contribution highlights the time-series behavior of factor strategies during bear and bull markets, and across different decades. Previous studies show that return correlations tend to increase in bear markets. Consistent with these works, we document that country factor strategies tend to be more correlated during down-market periods, a phenomenon explained by rising global volatilities. Hence, even for equity factors, diversification fades when most needed. Yet, in contrast to the trends observed for major asset classes, we also document that these correlations have been relatively stable over different decades. This is good news for long-term investors who seek different sources of diversification.
"


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